The Social Complexity Atlas. Public Lecture 31 March 2020 Institute for Advanced Study, University of Amsterdam

We Need a Social Complexity Atlas

The study of social complexity has developed over the last twenty-five years into a rather advanced field of study, reaching into just about every area of social inquiry – from sociology and economics to the public policy and urban planning – to become one of the largest areas of research in the complexity sciences.

It has also become, more recently, entangled with the dramatic rise in big data and digital social science; and it sits at the nexus of some of the biggest global problems we face, from climate change to the instabilities of the global economy.

Despite these advances, the field is by no means a mature area of study, suffering from a key list of challenges, all of which need addressing if it is to truly become an established field of research. Some examples include a methodological privileging of the micro over the macro; a rather noncritical embrace of the latest developments in computational modelling and big data and machine learning; the canonization of the field’s core concepts such as self-organisation and emergence; and the absence of a developed theory of power relations or inequality.

What is needed, then, is a proper mapping of where the field has been, what is presently taking place, and perhaps most important, what yet needs to be done, and with it a more rigorous and critical cartography of where we are in 2020.

The Social Complexity Atlas with Edward Elgar

In response, my colleague Lasse Gerrits and I are writing a book, titled appropriately enought, The Social Complexity Atlas. We are publishing it in 2022 with Edward Elgar.

Fellowship Institute of Advanced Study, University of Amsterdam

Toward the effort of writing the book, we are thankful to the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Amsterdam, for a 2020 research fellowship, which will allow us to work on the book and work with colleagues in the complexity sciences at the IAS and University.

Public Lecture 31 March 2020 (16:00PM - 18:00PM)
As a way of launching the project, the IAS has kindly asked us to provide a public lecture. Which we will do on the 31st of March from 16:00 - 18:00. In this lecture, we will provide an overview of the incredible innovations and significant challenges the study of social complexity presently faces and how we suggest they are best addressed to help advance this research as a mature field of study. We also ask the audience for suggestions in what directions we should look for future research into social complexity.



BOOK: Defiance of Global Commitment -- Updated Maps and Figures

I have had several requests over the past few months for high resolution versions of the maps and figures in my recent book, The Defiance of Global Commitment: A Complex Social Psychology. As such, I am providing them here, for download. If you use the figures or maps, please cite them as follows: Castellani, B. (2018). The Defiance of Global Commitment: A Complex Social Psychology. Routledge.

The Brexit vote; the election of Trump; the upsurge of European nationalism; the devolution of the Arab Spring; global violence; Chinese expansionism; disruptive climate change; the riotous instabilities of the world capitalist system…While diverse in nature, these events share a common denominator: they are less a failure of policy, and more a complex mass psychological reaction to globalization, the result of which presently threatens our survival on Earth.

Based on a critical reading of Freud’s Civilization and its discontents, The defiance of global commitment constructs a complex social psychology of how people all over the world are addressing globalization. Drawing on the latest advances in the cognitive, social, and complexity sciences, this timely volume presents a global model of defiance and the triangular tensions between nostalgic retreat, global aggression, and civil society, as manifested in forms ranging from nostalgic resentment and LGBTQI issues to racism and ecological aggression.

Revealing how globalization and its discontents manifest the darker reaches of the human psyche and its conflicted relations with others, as well as our more pro-social behaviours, this insightful monograph will appeal to a general audience, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers interested in fields such as globalization studies, climate change psychology, the political psychology, complexity sciences and social psychology.


In defiance of our defiance; hacking our primal selves: Research to aid humanity get out of its funk

Recently, my doctoral student, Anton Botha wrote an excellent blog post on the linkages between our current societal reactions to globalisation and the myriad of global social problems we presently face, all grounded in a complexity theory of psychological motivation, which he is developing.

The post is very good and worth reading, as it draws upon a wide list of theoretical frameworks, including evolutionary psychology, motivation theory, attachment theory, sociology, political science and globalisation studies.