“to be or Not to be” Vs. “from Being to Becoming”: Inequality As a Property of Complex Social Systems

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Czeslaw MESJASZ, Cracow University of Economics, Poland
The challenges of social and economic inequality have been known since the onset of civilizations. Already in the 20th Century several major works on that topic were published by Amartya Sen but a new significant impulse has been given to the discussion on that topic after the publication of research by Thomas Piketty and co-authors. Those publications were followed by other works of Joseph Stiglitz and Branko Milanovic. They were accompanied by more or less “shocking” reports and results of empirical research papers illustrating dramatic discrepancies in distribution of income and wealth in the world society (OECD, UNDP, UNU/WIDER, World Bank), The discussion on inequality includes two major approaches. The first one embodies narrow empirical approaches, often without a deeper explanation of causes. In the second approach, inequality is analyzed within a framework of broad ideological and political considerations. There exists a research gap, in which the middle-range theoretical discourse based on systems thinking, and complex systems studies, in particular, can be placed. Analogies, metaphors and mathematical models deriving from complex systems studies can be helpful in a better understanding of causes as effects of socio-economic inequality. Narrowing the discussion to some preliminary issues, the paper aims at showing how modern systems thinking, and especially the ideas dealing with complexity of social systems, can be helpful in a better understanding of the phenomenon of sociopolitical inequality. Applications of the following ideas can be considered: consequences of Pareto distribution, Lorenz distribution, Zipf’s Law, scale-free networks, thermodynamic models and analogies, hierarchical structure of systems, holarchy, heterarchy, functional differentiation of systems and other formal models. Parallely, qualitative ideas of complexity such as the Luhmann’s concept and others can be applied. The collection of proposed ideas is obviously not limited.