By James McGlade, Sander E. van der Leeuw

In a self-discipline which primarily reviews how smooth guy got here to be, it truly is striking that there are infrequently any conceptual instruments to explain switch. this is often a result of background of the western highbrow and medical culture, which for a very long time favoured mechanics over dynamics, and the examine of balance over that of switch. switch used to be basically deemed because of exterior occasions (in archaeology mostly climatic or 'environmental').
innovative concepts within the ordinary and existence sciences, usually (erroneously) known as 'chaos theory', recommend that there are methods to beat this challenge. a variety of procedures could be defined by way of dynamic platforms, and sleek computing equipment permit us to enquire lots of their homes. This quantity provides a cogent argument for using such methods, and a dialogue of a couple of its points via quite a number scientists from the arts, social and traditional sciences, and archaeology.

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Our earlier point is worth reiterating: instability is an intrinsic part of the internal dynamic of the system. The complexity of social systems is in large part a consequence of the existence of multiple modes of operation, and hence of multiple sets of decision-making criteria. Thus, much of the inherent instability in, for example, exchange systems reflects the dominance of highly non-linear interactions. It is the role of such non-linearities which has led to observations on the emergence of erratic, aperiodic fluctuations in the behaviour of biological populations (May and Oster 1976) and in the spread of epidemics (Schaffer and Kot 1985a, 1985b).

The critical element is the way in which the concept travels, how it is made to feel at home in its new environment, and how it is used, intelligently or not. Inevitably there are difficulties, but these should not be a reason to abandon the exercise altogether. It serves no purpose whatsoever to judge a discipline or an intellectual venture by its worst examples. Yet it is important to be aware of some fundamental differences between the disciplines in which dynamical modelling was first developed and those in which we wish to use the approach.

Oster 1976. Bifurcations and dynamic complexity in simple ecological models. American Naturalist 110, 573-99. Mayntz, R . 1989. Social discontinuity. Interdisciplinary Science Review 14, 4 - 1 5 . Menger, C. 1982. On the origin of money, Economic Journal 2, 239-55. Nicolis, G. and I. Prigogine 1977. Self-Organization in Non-Equilibrium Systems. New York: Wiley Interscience. Picazo, M. 1993. Hearth and home: the time of maintenance activities. Unpublished paper presented to the T A G Conference, Durham (UK), December 1993.

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