The Applicability of Complex Systems Paradigms in Social Sciences

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2016


The Applicability of Complex Systems Paradigms in Social Sciences



Yin Jie and Wang Yanan


There are significant differences between the social and the natural sciences in research topics, methods, and models. In order to handle their differences and commonalities correctly, it is necessary to review the applicability of natural science paradigms, such as the complex systems paradigm, to research in the social sciences. Analysis of their applicability is the logical prerequisite of research on the application of scientific thought and cross-disciplinary methodology. Analyzing the nature of the complexity of social systems and reconstructing the cognitive model of the social sciences is not only conducive to clarifying the theoretical foundations and practical norms and methods of complex systems paradigms, but also clarifies their level of application and degree of applicability in social sciences research. The results of interdisciplinary research will enrich and deepen complexity theory itself. In using the complex systems paradigm to understand social systems, we take into account the process nature of dynamic system evolution and abandon mechanistic determinism, changing the traditional cognitive model of the social sciences. However, this method tends to focus only on material and relational construction; it is easy for it to overlook social systems at the level of thought. In fact, the complexity and diversity of social systems thinking at this level help to highlight the distinctive character of social systems and their differences from natural science systems. At the same time, they constitute the source of the ontological debates on most social science theories and knowledge systems. Social science research under the complex systems paradigm opens a new direction for research on the philosophy of the social sciences and provides an important platform for rethinking social science theory and practice at the philosophical level.