Until the present time theories of social systems have been based on the principle of rationality, e.i. they suppose agents endowed with objective, rational reasoning free of any psychological bias. The first to question this principle was Nikolas Luhmann. He replaced the linear reasoning of rationality by the circular self-reference of the autopoïetic model borrowed from Maturana and Varela. However, Luhmann’s approach has not been accepted unanimously. Critiques aimed at both the autopoïetic model in general as well as the way Luhmann made use of it. The discussion about this issues is still under way.
Conform to the autopoïetic model, Luhmann puts the difference between system and environment into the center of his theory. This principle induces him to preclude human individuals as well as psychic systems from his considerations and to substitute them by the notion of communication. Luhmann adopts a top-down-approach, e.i. the agents of a social system are such only as part of the system, not on their own. Other problematic points of Luhman’s model are his notions of sense and complexity.
The autopoïetic model describes what life is, but it does not comprise tools to describe the evolutionary processes which have brought life into existence, how living organisms function and maintain themselves. There is no mathematical model to derive general rules for emergence or adaptation under the influence of mutation and selection. There-fore, by adopting autopoïesis as basis for his theory Luhmann falls automatically victim of the deficiencies of this model. His explanations of social processes, e.g. how society deals with ecology, remain superficial.
In this paper we propose a different framework for dealing with social systems. We recommend to choose self-organization as systemic foundation and to combine it with notions of the psychology of C. G. Jung. The mathematical tools developped by S. Wolfram, S. Kauffman, W. Stadler, P. Schuster and many others at the Santa Fé Institute and elsewhere allow to define general rules and conditions for processes in complex systems. Thus, self-organization has become the name for a scientific toolbox applicable to problems in all branches of science. Notions as attractor, bifurcation, emergence and edge of chaos are very helpful to understand social processes.
Self-organization favors a bottom-up view of evolutionary processes. In the case of social systems, social groups can be viewed as emergence of the interaction of individuals. Following the psychology of C. G. Jung we consider individuals as subject to unconscious moving forces which supply the reference system for their actions. “Rationality” is the set of arguments forwarded by our mind to justify these unconscious inputs. This view of things compromises the usual notion of rational decision taking. The interaction of individuals is characterized by the spontaneous pattern formation well-known from cellular automata: individuals have the tendency to converge to common beliefs (attrac-tors), a process which C. G. Jung called “participation mystique”. This phenomenon sheds serious doubts on the notion of freedom of will which forms the basis of democracy.
Human beings are normally unaware of the fact that they are guided by unconscious inputs and little is known about the bifurcations which allow them to escape these attractors and “to see themselves”, a process which Jung called “individuation”. If the unconscious driving forces become conscious, the bias excerted by these forces disappears and a more “rational” way of acting (in the classical sense of objectivity) becomes possible. The individual has access to a higher level of ethics and freedom. It seems that a germ of this spiritual driving force is present in every human being, but in most cases the threshold of bifurcation is not attained. The question is whether a self-organization process favoring (but not assuring) this bifurcation can be initiated.
The paper ends with the utopic view of a society emerging from the interaction of individuals having accomplished this step, a society for which Dante in his Divine Commedy has coined the term “Candida Rosa”.