The Notion of ‘Phase Transition' in the Social Science

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Massimiliano RUZZEDDU, University Niccolo Cusano Rome, Italy
The notion ‘phase transition’ is one of the most important in the system and complexity theories. It denotes the passage of a system to a different condition. Actually, the use of notion is quite more frequent in the natural science, especially physics, and includes phenomena like liquid to vapor, not-magnetic to magnetic etc.

This presentation will explore the epistemic potentiality of this notion within the social sciences, where this category denotes all the cases of social change of a system, no matter if global, national or local.

More precisely, I will focus on the difference between the first order and the second order phase transitions. While the first describes an abrupt change from one state of order to another, the second refers to gradual and fluid changes, with high degrees of chaos in the between.

The point is that, while the social structures change according to second order phase transitions, with chaotic states such as strives, conflicts and other turbulences, the social representations of change are habitually first order. In other words, gaps can arise between social actors, which figure out immediate and complete changes, and structural changes, which are slow, incomplete and unclear.

Namely, those gaps are nowadays most frequent in the contemporary political-juridical domains, where political programs and/or laws are issued to quickly respond to an ever growing number of social demands. The consequence is that those programs fail to meet those demands, like in the case of school reforms in Italy.

Basing on this idea, I will try to draw a theoretical model, that can give account of the possible failures in the political goal implementation, in term of conflicts between legal/political systems, that hold first order phase-transitions, and the social structure that changes through second order phase-transitions.