Katharine N. Farrell, Tommaso Luzzati, Sybille Van den Hove

Producción científica: Capítulo en Libro/ReporteCapítuloInvestigación


Introduction This diverse collection of empirical, methodological and theoretical chapters concerning the practice of interdisciplinary research is intended to give the reader a glimpse at the state of the art and the main challenges facing researchers, research institutions and communities that aspire to carry out and develop non-reductive, interdisciplinary investigations of social ecological systems. The topics addressed within its pages may be assigned labels such as socialecological systems research, sustainability science or ecological economics - all of which, of course, somehow describe what the contributing authors aim to address, both here and elsewhere in their work. However, as the name of this collection, which we borrow from Koestler and Smythies (1969), would suggest, we prefer to think of this text and its contributions in a broader context, as part of the more general work of discovering what it means to be doing science well in the twenty-first century. The human innovation ‘methodological reductionism’, which may be said to have seen its first comprehensive explication in René Descartes’ Discourse on Method (1978 [1641]) and its early practical application in the factories of eighteenth-century England, has produced great changes in the economic productivity and the ecological impact of human societies across the planet over the past 300 years. When taken in historical context, the speed of these transformations is impressive: the Palaeolithic period (Early Stone Age) lasted around 1 million years; the Late Stone Age (comprising the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods) lasted several thousand years; while the era of industrialization, which Crutzen and Stoermer (2000) have dubbed the Anthropocene, has so far lasted a few hundred (Gowdy 1994). The magnificent speed of modern technical innovation can be understood as a testament to the powers of methodological reductionism - to the systematic and, to a large extent, successful endeavour to interrogate the physical world, piece by piece, disclosing the secrets of nature (Bacon 1875 [1623]). Ironically, the tragedy of the Anthropocene era is not the failure but rather the success of this reductionism. Coming to terms with that success was the topic of the Alpbach Symposium, held in 1968, which brought together leading life sciences experts from a range of different disciplines, including Arthur Koestler, Friedrich Hayek, Victor Frankel, Ludwig von Bertalanffy and many others (Koestler and Smythies 1969). What these men (and they were all men) argued in 1968 was (1) that moving beyond reductionism was necessary in order to describe the special characteristics of complex life related phenomena, and (2) that there were points of connection and overlap between the various life sciences disciplines, which could help to provide a map for how knowledge from these various disciplines could be combined without being reduced. Koestler and Smythies described their objective as ‘the emancipation of the life sciences from the mechanistic concepts of nineteenthcentury physics, and the resulting crudely reductionist philosophy’ (ibid.: 2). Forty years on, although there remains little argument regarding its merits, moving beyond reductionism still presents great challenges for the scientists, citizens, bureaucrats, technocrats and politicians of the twenty-first century. While we do not imagine that the contributions to this collection should or will singlehandedly enable its readers to surmount these in a single leap, it is our hope that they may encourage those who may have become discouraged and inspire those who are wondering what might be waiting to happen. The field of ecological economics, which can be understood as one of the homes for this collection, now just over twenty years old, has explicitly taken up the challenge of moving beyond reductionism as one of its core methodological tasks, as has been pointed out by in the prefaces by both Robert Costanza and Richard Norgaard, two of its founders, who have kindly offered their reflections on this topic as an overture to the chapters that follow. Operating, as it does, at the interface between the life sciences of ecology and economics, ecological economics is, by definition, concerned with the interplay between complex living systems. It is, by definition, oriented at a point of study that lies beyond reductionism. In this respect, the story of how ecological economic methods have developed over the past twenty years is a central part of the story of how new interdisciplinary scientific methods, ones that lie beyond reductionism, have developed over this period. Telling a part of that story is the basic aim of this book, and in order to do so we have invited contributions from a diverse selection of scholars, ranging from PhD students working to find their footing in the amorphous field of social-ecological/ecological economics research (Barry and Farrell; Santaoja et al.), to scholars in the middle of their careers, actively producing these new tools and approaches (Farrell et al.; Giampietro et al.; Salleh et al.; Vatn), to those most senior, who have helped to give this fields it features, who here look back over what has been achieved but also, perhaps more importantly, point out for us their visions of where things might or should go from here (Martinez-Alier; Ravetz; Clark; Walker and Holling).

Idioma originalInglés estadounidense
Título de la publicación alojadaBeyond Reductionism
Subtítulo de la publicación alojadaA Passion for Interdisciplinarity
EditorialTaylor and Francis
Número de páginas5
ISBN (versión digital)9781136281716
ISBN (versión impresa)9780415470148
EstadoPublicada - ene. 1 2013
Publicado de forma externa

Áreas temáticas de ASJC Scopus

  • Economía, econometría y finanzas (todo)
  • Administración de Empresas y Contabilidad General


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