We describe the transfer of dissipative structure theory from thermodynamics to the social sciences. In our opinion, this transfer can contribute to a theory of social evolution where the relation between individual actions and social structures is a focal point. Central to the argument is the idea that dissipative structures emerge in social systems like they do in other open systems with inflows triggered by constraints. The transfer delivers a complexity-informed model for the different phases of social evolution. While there are average periods where the prevailing ‘norms’ of social behaviour do not change in a significant way, there are also bifurcation periods where the ‘norm’ of behaviour may change due to the amplification of deviating individual behaviour.

dissipative structure, part–whole, social complexity, social evolution, spontaneous order
dx.doi.org/10.1002/sres.2777, hdl.handle.net/1765/133282
Systems Research and Behavioral Science

Weber, T. (Thomas), Louçã, J. (Jorge), & Gerrits, L.M. (2021). Dissipative structures and the relation between individual and collective aspects of social behavior. Systems Research and Behavioral Science. doi:10.1002/sres.2777