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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 December 2019

Sander van der Leeuw
Arizona State University
Social Sustainability, Past and Future
Undoing Unintended Consequences for the Earth's Survival
, pp. vii - xii
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020


  1. Preface

  2. Part I

    1. 1How This Book Came About, What It Is, and What It Is Not

      1. Introduction

      2. Stepping Stones

      3. The Book: What It Is and What It Is Not

    2. 2Defining the Challenge

      1. Background

      2. Six Fundamental Points

    3. 3Science and Society

      1. Introduction

      2. The Great Wall of Dualism

      3. Rationalism and Empiricism

      4. The Royal Society and the Academies

      5. The Emergence of the Life Sciences and Ecology

      6. The Founding of the Modern Universities and the Emergence of Disciplines

      7. The Instrumentalization of Science

      8. Regaining Trust

    4. 4Transdisciplinary For and Against

      1. Introduction

      2. Interdisciplinarity

      3. Multidisciplinarity Results in a Bee’s Eye View

      4. Transdisciplinarity, Intellectual Fusion, and Linking Science and Practice

      5. Barriers to Practicing Transdisciplinary Science

      6. Competencies for Transdisciplinary Research

    5. 5The Importance of a Long-Term Perspective

      1. Looking Far Back into the Past

      2. The Importance of Slow Dynamics

      3. We Need to Know the Healthy State of Our Planet

      4. The Importance of Second-Order Change

      5. The Accumulation of Unintended Consequences

      6. Summary

    6. 6Looking Forward to the Future

      1. Introduction

      2. Past Perspectives on the Future

      3. Analogue and Evolutionary Approaches to Understanding Past and Future

      4. Ex Post vs. Ex Ante Perspectives

      5. The Role of Modeling

      6. Why Model?

      7. Support Models and Process Models

      8. Challenges to Integrated Modeling of Socioenvironmental Dynamics

      9. Scenario Building

    7. 7The Role of the Complex (Adaptive) Systems Approach

      1. Introduction

      2. Systems Science

      3. Complex Systems

      4. The Flow Is the Structure

      5. Structural Transformation

      6. History and Unpredictability

      7. Chaotic Dynamics and Emergent Behavior

      8. Diversity and Self-Reinforcing Mechanisms

      9. Focus on Relations and Networks

      10. Deterministic Chaos

      11. Attractors

      12. Multi-Scalarity

      13. Occam’s Razor

      14. Some Epistemological Implications

  3. Part II

    1. 8An Outline of Human Socioenvironmental Coevolution

      1. Introduction

      2. Human Information Processing Is at the Core

      3. The Biological Evolution of the Human Brain

      4. The Innovation Explosion: Mastering Matter and Learning How to Put the Brain to Use

      5. The First Villages, Agriculture and Herding

      6. The First Towns

      7. The First Empires

      8. The Roman Republic and Empire

      9. Conclusion

    2. 9Social Systems as Self-Organizing, Dissipative Information-Flow Structures

      1. Introduction

      2. Social Systems as Dissipative Structures

      3. Perception, Cognition, and Learning

      4. Communication: The Spread of Knowledge

      5. Social Systems as Open Systems

      6. Transitions in Social Systems as Dissipative Structures

      7. Conclusion

    3. 10Solutions Always Cause Problems

      1. Introduction

      2. The Pre- and Proto-History of the Rhine Delta

      3. The Middle Ages: Keeping the Land Dry Leads to the Hoogheemraadschap Rijnland

      4. The Early Modern Period: Land Is Turned into Water

      5. The “Golden Era”: Water Is Again Transformed into Land

      6. Regaining Lost Ground

      7. The Aftermath

      8. Summary and Conclusion

    4. 11Transitions in the Organization of Human Societies

      1. Introduction

      2. Information Processing and Social Control

      3. Phase Transitions in the Organization of Communication

      4. Modes of Communication in Early Societies

      5. Hierarchical, Distributed, and Heterarchical Systems

      6. Information Diffusion in Complex Hierarchical and Distributed Systems

      7. Conclusion

      8. Appendix A

    5. 12Novelty, Invention, Change

      1. Introduction

      2. Technology as “Tools and Ways to Do Things”

      3. Objects and Ideas

      4. The Presence and Absence of Change

      5. Perspectives on Invention

      6. Invention in Economics

      7. Open Questions

      8. The Inventor and the Context: Niche Construction

      9. Creation, Perception, Cognition, and Category Identification

      10. How Are Technical Traditions Anchored?

      11. The Locus of Invention

    6. 13An Illustration of the Invention Process and Its Implications for Societal Information Processing

      1. Introduction

      2. The Niche in Which the Potter Operates

      3. Challenges Limit Products

      4. Comparing Two Pottery-Making Traditions in This Light

      5. Using the Paddle and Anvil on Negros Oriental, Philippines

      6. Mold-Shaping in Michoacán, Mexico

      7. Some Lessons

      8. The Role of Artifacts and Technology in Society

    7. 14Modeling the Dynamics of Socioenvironmental Transitions

      1. Introduction

      2. Second-Order Dynamics

      3. Mobile and Early Sedentary Societies

      4. The Emergence of Hierarchies

      5. The First Bifurcation

      6. The Second Bifurcation

      7. The Third Bifurcation

      8. The Fourth Bifurcation

      9. Summary and Conclusion

      10. Appendix B

  4. Part III

    1. 15The Rise of the West as a Globally Powered Flow Structure

      1. Introduction

      2. The Rise of Western Europe 600–1900

      3. The Changing Roles of Government and Business

      4. Crises of the Twentieth Century

      5. Conclusion

    2. 16Are We Reaching a Global Societal “Tipping Point”?

      1. The Present Conundrum

      2. A Complex Adaptive Systems Perspective on “Crises”

      3. Accumulation of Unexpected Consequences

    3. 17Not an Ordinary Tipping Point

      1. Introduction

      2. The Acceleration of Invention and Innovation

      3. The Acceleration in Information Processing

      4. The Information Explosion

      5. Changing Relationships between Society and Space

      6. The Impact of ICT on Time and Its Societal Management

      7. Exploding Connectivity among Tools for Thought and Action

      8. Reduction of Control over Information Processing

      9. Blurring the Boundary between Information and Noise

      10. A Society’s Value Space Determines Signals and Noise

      11. The Dynamics of Value Spaces

      12. Wealth as the Predominant Global Metric

      13. Our Western Value Space Seems to Be Reaching a Boundary

    4. 18Our Fragmenting World

      1. Introduction

      2. The Race of the Red Queen

      3. The Growing Dissolution of Our Global Governance System

      4. The Spectacularization of Experience

      5. Democracy under Pressure

      6. The Deconstruction of Communities

      7. The Transformation of Globalization

      8. The Emergence of the Developing World

      9. Big Data and Individuation

      10. Automation and Artificial Intelligence

      11. From Production to Distribution

      12. Our Perception of the World

      13. How These Trends Are Developing

      14. Conclusion

    5. 19Is There a Way Out?

      1. Introduction

      2. Individuals Must Reengage in the Management of Our Society

      3. Designing a Plausible and Desirable Future

      4. The Role of Narratives

      5. Reconstructing Communities

      6. The Future Role and Management of Cities

      7. Dealing with the Acceleration in Information Processing

      8. Our Role as Scientists in the Community

    6. 20“Green Growth”?

      1. Introduction

      2. Steady-State Economics

      3. Sustainable Development Goals

      4. Toward a Mindset Change

      5. Pluri-Polarity

      6. Possible Future Roles for ICT

      7. The New World: How Might the ICT Revolution Impact on Society?

      8. Conclusion

    7. 21Conclusion

      1. What Is the Message Thus Far?

      2. What Are the Chances of Success?

      3. Breaking the Fundamental Feedback Loop of Coevolution

      4. Decentralization, Disruption, and Chaos

  5. Bibliography

  6. Index

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