Sociocybernetics and Chaos Theory - New Possibilities for Understanding Alcoholism and Related Addictions

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Even though »Sociocybernetics« is no longer a neologism, it is still useful to note that »socio« indicates a concern for the structure and deelopment of human relationships and that most of the authors presented in this collection were trained and taught in the social sciences, but significantly, however, not all have found their departmental homes in the field of alcoholism and related addictions (ARA). Indeed, the disciplinary heterogeneity of this group of authors reflects the ways in which the organizational structure of the disciplines of knowledge formation and their expression in academic departments is at present heavily contested, both in terms of the actual practice of alcoholism and related addictions and the theoretical and methodological justification for the autonomy claimed for the disciplines. Looking to our century, just rising above the horizon of the new millennium, we become aware that the process of globalization will confront us with a growing number of serious social problems. It is not only because we can observe, thanks to the modern mass media, much more of our world than we ever dreamed of, but also because our different societies and cultures become more and more entangled, and hopes and problems more and more interrelated. However, besides the physical and biological forces we have so successfully analyzed in the modern natural sciences, do we also understand, describe and explain, the social forces that influence alcoholism and related addictions? Do we understand, in terms of preventing, ARA and avoidable diseases? One would look for, hope and knowledge from the social sciences and expect that the project in the past century of system theorist, such as Bertalanffy (1932-1942), of comprehending social forces in a systematic way is already underway and well developed and will eventually provide us with knowledge and tools to control social problems and prevent social disasters. It is true that social sciences offer us powerful means for observing and describing a multitude of social problems. However, with that knowledge, do we really understand those problems, the many factors through which they are constituted, the way they are related to other problems, and logic of their causes and effects? We dealt first with some theoretical and methodological issues facing the disciplines today and then we tried to give a new way of recognition the qualitative dimension in the analysis of quantitative nonlinear data.

Keywords: Chaos and complexity theory; sociocybernetics; alcoholism and related addiction (ARA); complex dissipative systems (CDS); nonlinear dynamic


Looking at the original goals of alcohology and addiction sciences and evaluating their practice, one can wonder about the gap between those goals and that practice. It is also amazing that the efforts of system scientists to understand and to describe the world in a systematic way have not found resonance in the trials and errors of early social scientists in defining the logic of their enterprise. One of the reasons is perhaps to be located in the way alcoholism and related addictions were themselves influenced by social forces. Moreover, the concepts of causes and effect could not be explored in a systematic and adequate way.1 The idea that there was a mutual interaction between causes and effects, which can be formulated in the logical follow-up system theory, that is, cybernetics, and the associated idea of feedback cycles, was not accepted as valid for the logic of the social sciences. When such elementary logic is not accepted one no longer needs to wonder about the shortcomings of alcohology and addiction sciences in understanding and controlling the dynamics of ARA problems. This conclusion gives us grounds for examining the emergence of general systems theory and cybernetics and the attempts to apply concepts and ideas to the study of chaos and nonlinear dynamics in the field of alcohology and addiction science. …


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