M. M. Goldsmith

M.M. Goldsmith, "Liberty, Virtue and the Rule of Law", ed. David Wootton, Republicanism, Liberty and Commercial Society, 1649-1776, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1994.

For Montesquieu, as for Mandeville and Hume, republican virtue is obsolete. It is only appropriate to an earlier stage of history. Liberty becomes what the law permits and those rights which the laws provide; political participation is no longer essential. Nevertheless it must not be supposed that advocacy of republican liberty disappeared. [225]


Klaus Mainzer

Klaus Mainzer, Thinking in Complexity: The Complex Dynamics of Matter, Mind and Mankind, New York, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 1994.

In system theory, complexity means not only nonlinearity but a huge number of elements with many degrees of freedom. All macroscopic systems like stones or planets, clouds or fluids, plants or animals, animal populations, or human societies consist of component elements like atoms, molecules, cells or organisms. The behaviour of single elements in complex systems with huge numbers of degrees of freedom can neither be forecast nor traced back. The deterministic description of single elements must be replaced by the evolution of probabilistic distributions. [3]

The complex system approach is not reduced to special natural laws of physics, although its mathematical principles were discovered and at first successfully applied in physics (for instance to the laser). Thus, it is an interdisciplinary methodology to explain the emergence of certain macroscopic phenomena via the nonlinear interactions of microscopic elements in complex systems. [11]

The evolution of biological systems is governed by their genes. In Darwinian evolution a new type of individual emerges by the natural selection of mutants which appear spontaneously. In populations of higher animals the new possibility of behavioral change and adaptation by imitation arises. In human societies, there are still more sophisticated strategies of learning, which dominate the behavioral patterns. Societies have developed particular institutions like the legal system, the state, religion, trade, and so on to stabilize the behavioral change for the following generations. [268]

Obviously, nonlinear systems like biological organisms, animal populations, or human societies have evolved to become more and more complex. Our present society, when compared to Aristotle's polis or the political system of the physiocrats, is characterized by a high degree of institutional complexity and information networking. In the last century, Herbert Spencer already maintained that increasing complexity is the hallmark of evolution in general: 'Evolution is an increase in complexity of structure and function... incidental to the... process of equilibration...'. Spencer still argued in the thermodynamic framework of thermal equilibrium. [269]

From a methodological point of view, the question arises of how to represent sociocultural evolution of societies in thee mathematical framework of complex systems. The recognition of attractors and equilibria needs a phase portrait of the sociocultural dynamics which presumes the definition of a 'sociocultural state' and a 'sociocultural state space'. But what is the sociocultural state space of Victorian England or the Weimar Republic? These questions demonstrate obvious limitations. What are the possibilities of the complex system approach in the historical and social sciences?
It cannot be the aim of research to represent a historical period in a complete mathematical state space. The relevant data are often unknown, contigent, and not quantified. In the last section, complex systems with state spaces and dynamical phase portraits were used to model the economic evolution of human societies. Economists do not claim to represent the complete economic development of the Weimar Republic, for instance. [270]

Patterns of cooperation merge from individual choices at certain threshold values. An agent will cooperate when the fraction of the group perceived as cooperating exceeds a critical threshold. Critical thresholds depend on the group size and the social organizational structure emerging from the pattern of interdependencies among individuals. The potential for cooperative solutions of social dilemmas increases if groups are allowed to change their social structure. The advantages of organizational fluidity must be balanced against possible loss of effectiveness. The effectiveness of an organization may be measured by its capability to obtain an overall utility over time. [279]

Any pattern which can spread via communication of information is a meme, even if its human host cannot articulate it or is unaware of its existence. It is important to recognize that the replicators of human culture are memes, not people. Our ability to change our minds allows cultural evolution to proceed not by selection of humans, but by 'letting our theories die in our stead', as Karl Popper has proclaimed. [282]

In human societies, legal systems and governmental activities provide a framework for the market. In the framework of complex systems, they are not protected from evolutionary forces. They evolve within a political ecosystem with its own mechanisms for the variation and selection of laws. Some political memes, like political desires, slogans, or programs, may become attractors in the dynamical phase portrait of a society. In an open democratic society, they may emerge, but also decline, if their attractiveness decreases due to the selection pressure of competing alternatives. [283]

The capability to manage the complexity of modern societies depends decisively on an effective communication network. Like the neural nets of biological brains, this network determines the learning capability that can help mankind to survive. In the framework of complex systems, we have to model the dynamics of information technologies spreading in their economic and cultural environment. Thus, we speak of informational and computational ecologies. [283]

Markets are a form of self-organizing complex ecosystem. [286]

Our models of complex and nonlinear processes in nature and society have important consequences for our behavior. In general, linear thinking may be dangerous in a nonlinear complex reality. We have seen that traditional concepts of freedom were based on linear models of behavior. In this framework every event is the effect of a well defined initial cause. Thus, if we assume a linear model of behavior, the responsibility for an event or effect seems to be uniquely decidable. But what about the global ecological damage which is caused by the local nonlinear interactions of billions of self-interested people? [293]

In a linear model, the extent of an effect is believed to be similar to the extent of its cause. Thus, a legal punishment of a punishable action can be proportional to the degree of damage effected. But what about the butterfly effect of tiny fluctuations which are initiated by some persons, groups, or firms, and which may result in a global crisis in politics and economics? For instance, consider the responsibility of manager and politicians whose failure can cause the misery of thousands or millions of people?
As the ecological, economic and political problems of mankind have become global, complex, and nonlinear, the traditional concept of individual responsibility is questionable. We need new models of collective behavior depending on the different degrees of our individual faculties and insights. Individual freedom of decision is no abolished, but restricted by collective effects of complex systems in nature and society which cannot be forecast or controlled in the long run. Thus, it is not enough to have good individual intentions. We have to consider their nonlinear effects. [293]