Actor-System Dynamics Theory and Its Application to the Analysis of Modern Capitalism *. (Note on the Discipline/Note Sociologique)

By Burns, Tom R.; Baumgartner, Thomas et al. | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Actor-System Dynamics Theory and Its Application to the Analysis of Modern Capitalism *. (Note on the Discipline/Note Sociologique)


Burns, Tom R., Baumgartner, Thomas, DeVille, Philippe, Canadian Journal of Sociology


1. Introduction

Actor-system-dynamics (abbreviated as ASD henceforth) emerged in the 1970s out of early social systems analysis (Baumgartner et al, 1986; Burns et al, 1985; Burns et al, 2002). Social relations, groups, organizations, and societies were conceptualized as sets of inter-related parts with internal structures and processes. A key premise was that social systems are open to, and interact with, their environment. Through interaction with their environment - and through internal processes - such systems acquire new properties, and transform themselves, resulting in evolution and development (Burns, 2000, 2001; Bums and Dietz, 1992a, 1992b, Burns et al, 2002; Burns and Carson, 2002).

The common assumption espoused by some system theorists that the same concepts and principles of organization underlie the different disciplines (physics, biology, technology, sociology, economics) was rejected from the outset. It was axiomatic that human human agents should not be conceptualized as equivalent to particles, cells, electronic components, or purely physical systems. There were good empirical but also moral reasons for this. Human beings are creative as well as moral agents. They have intentionality, they are selfreflective and consciously self-organizing beings. They may choose to deviate, oppose, or act in innovative and even perverse ways in relation to norms and values.

The formulation of ASD in such terms was particularly important in light of the fact that system theories in the social sciences, particularly in sociology, were heavily criticized for the excessive abstractness of their theoretical formulations, for their failure to recognize or adequately conceptualize conflict in social life, and for persistent tendencies to overlook the non-optimal, even destructive characteristics of some social systems. Also, many system theorists were taken to task for falling to recognize human agency, the fact that individuals and collectives are purposive beings, have intentions, make choices, demonstrate self-reflectivity, and participate in the construction and destruction of systems. (1)

A major implication of "bringing human agents into the picture" has been the stress on the fact that agents are social and cultural beings. As such, agents and their relationships are constituted and constrained by social rules and rule complexes. These are the basis on which they organize and regulate their interactions, interpret and predict their activities, and develop and articulate accounts of their affairs and carry on critical discourses. Social rule systems are key contextualizing conditions for as well as the products of social interaction.

In the following sections, we provide a brief introduction and up-to-date overview of the theory of ASD. It presents the set of concepts essential to dynamic description and model-building in social system analysis. In the second part of the note, we illustrate several of the key ASD concepts in relation to capitalism as a complex and dynamic social system; also, we consider several of the knowledge problems that arise in accounting and regulating such a system. A number of practical implications are pointed out, in particular: (1) capitalism is a highly dynamic but unstable system - both as an economic system per se and as a force evoking political instability and environmental deterioration; (2) regulation is essential to stabilizing capitalist systems and to facilitating their effective functioning; (3) such regulation depends on political authority to introduce and implement regulative frameworks and on the development of more or less accurate models of capitalist systems as well as information and accoun ting systems to provide data for the models; (4) effective regulation and functioning of capitalism requires not only appropriate institutional arrangements but social agents who have the competence and motivation to lead and put into practice the institutional arrangements under varying circumstances and to effectively adapt and reform them in response to serious operational failures and environmental changes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Actor-System Dynamics Theory and Its Application to the Analysis of Modern Capitalism *. (Note on the Discipline/Note Sociologique)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.