Critical Evolutionary Systems Theory: Social Movements As System Attractors

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Shaun BARTONE, U. New Brunswick, Fredericton NB Canada, USA
Critical Systems Theory bridges the work of the Critical Theory of Habermas and the Frankfurt School with evolutionary systems theory devised by Luhmann. Christian Fuchs’ Critical Systems Theory argues that ‘cognitive liberation’ is an essential condition for the emergence of protest and social movements. The mere fact of system failure, defined in one sense as ‘social problems’, is not sufficient grounds for the emergence of social movements. Critical consciousness emerges when there is a break in the fit between social structures and subjective expectations, yielding an ‘issue’ for discussion, and when individual consciousness reflects upon and debates the issue

Blûdhorn’s Systems theory of social movements also employs elements of Critical theory but those critical elements are constructed within his Systems’ theory and are explained as a outcome of functional systems. Blüdhorn restates Luhmann’s definition of the radical function of protest movements as maintaining the possibility of system difference and change.

I propose a Critical Evolutionary Systems Theory which explains that social systems generate social problems defined as the exclusion of issues from functional systems. Individuals develop a critical consciousness to critique functional systems and the exclusion of those issues. Individuals communicate with others to deploy deviant semantics in the form of protest to simulate as within systems that which has been excluded, including issues that lie entirely outside the system, i.e the natural environment. Protest movements are self-organizing movements which autopoietically generate alternatives for functional systems. Protest movements self-organize around a new cognitive attractor that can generate new patterns for a ground-up production of new social forms. Protest movements network on an as-needed basis to create emergent social movements. Protest movements select among those alternatives and generate new functional subsystems which increase the complexity of the system and continue the evolution of the social system.