Self Organization in Society


- Compu-script from chapter 3 : "Daß nichts bleibt, wie es ist..." Volume II -
Annette Schlemm

1. Do we follow only laws of systems?

... A theory wants to explain the behavior of their "objects". But the objects of the theory of society are subjects. Each theorist is an actor in the society of himself and not only an observer.

There are a great differences of life styles, social ranks and the fragmentation of the consumption. In view of the urgent social and ecological problems we see that spreading is overlapt by the capitalistic economy.

Subjectivity may only developed within the mechanism of manpower-marketing. Most of us don't be aware of unreasonable kinds of demands are tips and advises for job-application.

Creativity should be promoted - but only for better doing the given purposes not only our own purposes.

We have extreme spiritualized the principles of capitalism - e.g. ethos of work, effectivity and the needs of consumption - that we search only solutions of problems within the capitalistic principles.

The political Left accept the "globalization" unquestioned and this leads to a discussion of location (Standort) with a tendency to give up social achievements and ecology disappears from a field of vision.

What is to do? We recognize the logic of happenings - are we at the mercy of its?

" As long as world history take its logical course,
it doesn't fulfill its human purpose." (Horkheimer)

All "constraints of things (objects, matters?)" are consequences of human doing and not-doing. The consequences of human doing become "pre-given things" (Verdinglichung). They appear as things and constraints independent of us.

It is a matter of really achieve our subjectivity again and not of defiant activism. Therefore we must begin by ourselves. Really I have the urge and the duty to work 40 hours per week lifelong - knowing that the production for our needs, based on modern technology , needs only some days a month? This is the matter by using only ecologially-sustainable technologies! Is it the point for me to meet other humans or countries - or need I the Teneriffa-holidays for recover from the remains of the year? (How bad is my everyday life in spite of modern car, trendy dress and so on...??).

We do not trust to ask us this questions and if they suggest itself we displace them quickly again.

This repression shows that there exist deeper, other desires. In my different works at work-procurement-measures ("ABM" in German), further educations, in my own philosophical discussions and so on I met many different people. In all of them there were another things in the deeper being... as work and consumption.

Dozens of times peoples all over the world had often seen happen and realized different breaks of culture, way of life and economics. Why should our globalized capitalistical market economy and -cultur be the "End of History"? Another way of life, another work can develop new cultures.

We can outwit the "logic" and "constraints" by developing an opposite culture that becomes the ground of buds (seems) for new economy and lifestyles.

We are not only observers and spectators - we are the actors of history. We are ourselves our knowledge-objects. We do not observe statically being, but we recognize in "logically" and "constraintad" consequences of our doing which are changeable.

If we recognize decisions and conditions it does not mean that we must "follow" them. We want to recognize them - in order to change them!

2. Self-organizing systems

2.1. Why we are fascinated about self organization?

"Life is for human
organize the processes, to which they are subject" (Brecht)

Humans are not leafs in the wind of history. All creatures have abilities to change their environment so that it becomes a life-supporting "with-world". Only human can recognize this connections conscious. Magical and mythical world views of our ancestors - refused by modern, "enlighted" world view as non-rational and unscientifically - knew and know much about this connections.

In some societies developed other forms of knowledge in the last centuries. Science, other production technologies, social structures and cultures came into being. On this ground the interplay of all forces and processes in nature fall into eyes again. After torture nature to snatch it from its mysteries (Bacon), after outwit nature to use its forces (Bloch) we come to a "Dialog with nature" (Prigogine, Stengers). To an "Alliance-Technology" - which demand Bloch in opposite to the "outwit-Technology" - we did´nt come yet except some outsiders which have no much effect.

2.2. What is Self-Organization?

"Organization" characterizes on the one hand the existence-form of relative stable structures and on the other hand the arising of new structures.

One theory, which emphasizes the self-maintaining of complex structures on basis of self-generating of the own parts, is the concept of Autopoiesis (for biology) of Maturana and Varela.

H.Haken found the "cyclical causality" (Whole generates parts and parts generate the whole) in the "Synergetics".

Chemically dissipative processes in arising structures were found by I. Prigogine. He created the concept of self-organization.

In these concepts self-organization is an "irreversible process which leads to complex structures of an whole system by cooperative activities of part-systems" (Ebeling, Feistel 1986).

Complex structures maintains themselves by organizing their inner structure in a way that the inner parts interact with themselves and with the outer structures. Processes of interactions by the parts maintain the stability of the whole.

These interactions work in typical essential connections. Essential connections (in a system) are defined as "laws" (by H. Hoerz). If conditions change so that the connections can't exist longer, the structures organize themselves in other structures with new connections (laws). The "old" system can "die", or build a new one. Because the conditions had changed, the new system is not identical with older systems commonly. There arises irreversibility. The change of systems became an evolution-process. Maybe this process is a leap.

The working of self-generated condition-changes is typical for these evolution-processes. In mathematics there are non-linear equations. They lead to beautiful pictures of fractals...

Now we can compare this with the doing-problem of humans. By doing (or not-doing) something we change the conditions of our doing ourselves. These changed conditions we see than as "constraints". Doing is not without conditions. These conditions arised from former doing. Than often the interweaving of doing and its results appears as "non-changeable logic". But even this connection generates the possibility for News!

The concept of Autopoieses emphasizes the stability of systems. I'm interested more in arising new qualities, connections. The cycle of self-maintain breaks open to a spiral in openness.

By "leaping" we can speak about critical situations. But these situations do not end (the "end of history" doesn't come!). There are non-linearity! Each evolution-process changes his own conditions, which are conditions of its existence/being. Some time this process reaches his "measure" (Hegel). The limit has to gone beyond.

By going beyond something dies. Others changed so that it is included in the new structures. 99% of all animal species on planet earth died. Only 1% survived and evolved further and further. All the rest of them died or were included in the new species. They had to change. This is the "negation of negation" by Hegel or "integration" by Ken Wilber.

"So the human is the possibility of all, what he became in his history and
what he/she may become in unhindered progress further." (E.Bloch)

The new structure is not determined by the formerly structures absolutely. Therefore evolution is not only an "unwrapping" of pre-existent forms. In former structures are included manifold possibilities (contingencies), which in the moment of "leaping" become into being. (not "possibility becomes reality", but better: "the possibility of another (new) realities are in each reality" and "new reality(ies) arise(s)").

Each reality is "redundant", includes possibilities (contingencies) (not only chances(accidents)). The contingencies differentiate and either became a radiation of new structures (often in biology) or there is a deciding for one of them by "leaping" and going beyond the limits.

We know the following picture from the concept of self-organization (non-linear equation) with the famous "bifurcation": ...

The new structures are not determined absolutely. But they can't be impossible. What is possible - is determined by history and conditions. To make a desirable future possible we have to change the conditions in present! (This shows us, what is to do before revolution, if we want one!).

In the Bifurcation-picture the realm of "turbulent chaos" is interesting. The "turbulent chaos" (far from thermodynamic equilibrium) differs from the "chaos in absolute equilibrium" (how Brownian motion of parts in ideal gases) and the "chaos of edge" in the bifurcation-points. I think that this turbulent chaos may be a "pattern" for a desirable future ("communism", "order without reign"...). Turbulent chaos allows self-regulation of human communities in a network of cooperative connections. (Former societies with small communities had no enough connections - therefore my "utopia" is not identical with these formerly communities - I hope we succeed evolving in a spiral, not a relapse). In this way we evolve not into "one new future" (for all the same), but into "new futures" of several communities within connections...

This reminds me of the problem if interpretation. May we compare mathematical pictures with human issues?

2.3. May we lock up humans in systems?


I use methodically the system-theories. But I'm using a qualitative, not a quantitative notion of "system" (Schlemm 1996, S.87, according to H.Hoerz). Systems are characterized by typical essential connections, which named "laws". The argumentation must follow the qualities of real things, not a common schema.

3. Society as complex of self-organizing systems
3.1. Systems - Realms with typical essential connections

We have to distinguish something, but than see their interplaying again.
There are connections in societal processes in different levels:

  • ("vertical"): 1. Humans - non-human environment, 2. Formations of society, 3. Communities/groups and 4. Individuals.
  • ("horizontal") a) Culture, b) Economy, c) politics, d) ideology and so on...

Co-Evolution occurs within and between vertical and horizontal processes. All processes influence each other. This dependeness (not exactly 100% determined!) is called "determinism".

If we consider societies, the problem of determinism is substantially broaded through the role of subjectivity. The problem of openness and dependeness gains new aspects. It is essentially, not to emphasize the necessities and to justify the "being", but we have to search the open possibilities and to promote news....

3.2. Society as a complex exceptionally spheres

The activity of humans isn't determined by outer laws of systems. Their activities put up a net of relations, which supports their connections. Some people can tie more knots because of their (reign-)power. Some nets more tie someone up as they serve exchanging. It is an eternal goal of peoples to free oneself from foreign nets and to spread own nets. Words as "democracy", "(reign-)power" or "freedom" are specially words to characterize human self-organization.

We ourselves define our purposes, values and goals...


3.3. Concrete Applications of the concept of Self-Organization in society

Maybe Herman Hakens concept of synergetics is a model of a liberal capitalism. In the Internet-magazine te/epo/is on answered carefully to this question.

Many interpretation of self-organization-concepts emphasize, that in complex systems there could not exist a helmsman. Now we have to ask, if there could be no steering (liberal opinion) or how we can influence in another way. Also there occur "short circuits" as "social-prigoginismus" (reduce social problems to phys.-chem. characteristics).

Since 1987 the concept of self-organization became to me a n important point of departure to turn dogmatism upside down.
SELF-organization showed necessity of democracy. Since 1990 we changed our social system, but structural problems differ only quantitative. We have no choice about our "way of life", we are "system-integrated"....

3.3.1. Self-Organization as method in sociology and management

We recognize, that previous methods of steering were simply, namely linear and monostable orientated.
Ecology and economy as co-evolving non-equilibrium-processes are analyzed in Beckenbach/Diefenbacher (1994).

Management as mastering complexity

"Organization as fractals gives the employee a higher measure of responsibility... " (about a company).
All secotrs of the company are called as fractals: fractal of procurement, fractal of service, fractal of distribution and so on...


The circle symbolizes a round table with employees of same rank. Circles, merging into one another, outline the combination of groups.
Everything emerges from the group, the higher orders arise from the lower, not inverse...
(VDI-nachrichten magazin 4/93)


In socialism they said: "take part in working, take part in planing, take part in govern". But we could only realize pre-given goals. In present only managers can choice goals of production and economy too!

Self-Organization for a new start

I think, that our form of living and economy (capitalism) is not the "end of history". We are located in breaking-processes - when the measure is reached. Capitalism can delay its end, because it - in difference to the undergone maya-culture - can expand and export its problems and import other ressources.

These processes find its "pattern" in the bifurcation-picture of self-organization-concept.

We don´t know, what happens on the "edge of chaos" in the bifurcation-point. We can't know, how looks society after "leaping". But we can discuss some principles. In this way we can see two possibilities:



Maybe new "stewards" (Haken) becomes into being, or an absolutely new society becomes into being: the "order without reign" in the "turbulent chaos".


Previous revolutions only replaced the government by a new one. But in tendency the "fields of possibilities (freedom)" were widen. Maybe the end of mankind occurs. But maybe a leap into the "turbulent chaos", i.e. "order without reign" or "communism" (I don't know, if "socialism" is needed.) is possible. Turbulent chaos is not the muddle of atoms, but the space to combine self-determined into new structures (whirls as stable self-determined communities for a time - with connections...).

Jaroslav Langer evaluated the revolt in Cechoslowakia in 1968. He saw that the band-with of reign became thinner and in our time it is time to vanish for it. Also a "communist" party would became a power(reign)-organization. A party is bound by fights and battles of society and is not able to develop "basis-democracy". In 1968 Langer organized the so called "Clubs alternative non-conformists" with the principles: face-to-face-groups, common consensus-kernel, only informal hierarchies. In 1990 I saw in these principles a good analogy to the principles of self-organization.

Also the Young Socialists (from the German party SPD) refer to self-organization: "It has to make experiancable the changeability of matters. This is ultimately attainable through self-organization of the concerned people". Self-organization denotes as "self-determination of the concerned people about their social matters."

The self-organization-invention "Treuhand" (faithful hand?) in the GDR was more tragically. "Each citizen of GDR gets from a holding-society a document of capital-associating, i.e. a part of national property... The "Treuhandanstalt" lookes after the evenly distributing." (Artzt, M. and others 1990).


Future-Workshops (R.Jungk) are practicable self-organizing steps into future. Problems of manageable size are discussed (and solved) by all concerned peoples (not only experts or administration) in a determined way. Here self-organization takes place, not only representation of interests. An important goal of Future-Workshops is not only the material result, but the experience of people by deciding and doing (Development of "subjective factor"). Also I know Scenario-Workshops (A.Frosch, Hamburg), Future-conferences and so on...

Other important steps of concrete self-organization are the movements of social self-help. In Germany there are 600 000 peoples in 40 000 projects. The Youth-Environment-Movement in Germany works under the motto: "Differently life, differently work!". Alternative companies, eco-villages, communes, clubs and associations work in this sense. Models for stable projects are the Kibbuzim. All these projects didn't overcome capitalism. Succeeded they or not? If success is capital, reign, profit, exploitation..., they failure. But other criterions (ecology, feeling good...) show a specially success. In concurrence to capitalistic companies, existing at the same time, they therefore can't succeed!

In this regard you may ask me, if I want back to "middle age", to small villages, small trades and so on...

Yes I want back, but not to "middle age" or 19. century. I want "back to future" in a spiral-shape development. I want de-centralization with worldwide communication-contacts. I want smaller units of life and work, but with productive (but ecologically working!) technics.

This is not only a dream. There are some tendencies to de-centralization (yet under capitalistic values and exploitation):

  • A decentral energy-support on the basis of solar-energy is more efficiently, ecologically and safely as central coal/oil/atom-energy.
  • An ecologically technology is not centralistically.
  • Production tendences to group-production, de-centralization, flexibily. Mass-production on assembly lines is not more economically. Tayloristic "Fordism" changes into "Toyotism", "lean production".
  • Disposal of waste is more effectively in a decentral way too.
  • "Globalization" of world economy means also uncoupling of great sectors. This opens new chances/prospects for a self-determined evolution.
    (I.e. in the commune Nueva Esperanza in El Salvador).

Such tendencies were concealed by media. Only a few alternative media report on this. Robert Jungk created a collecting point for such hopeful informations...



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