Democracy & Nature
The International journal of Inclusive Democracy
Vol. 6, No. 3 (November 2000)
Can We Start to Understand Emergence?
Abstract: When a new property is required to characterise an altered system, it is said to be “emergent”. The fundamental importance of emergence for social activists is stressed. It is proposed that we deepen our understanding of it by examining well-understood processes to see exactly how new properties emerge in them. Reasons are given for hoping that this approach can be more fruitful now than in past eras. To illustrate the method, a simple case is examined which brings out, inter alia, the role of the environment and the precise way that a continuous process underlies the abrupt emergence. The results appear encouraging enough to stimulate further studies along these lines, and it is suggested where suitable cases can be found.