The Spectre of Emergence and its Enemies

The article proposes looking at the process of emergence as a spectre. This is considered from a dual perspective: as something that offers hope for the self-organization of society, and as a sinister force that humanity tries to master and control. The first means of understanding emergence is strongly present in new social movements that paradoxically share a belief in self-organization but do not appreciate the forms it takes, which is implemented without their mediation. The second way of understanding emergence lies, in turn, at the heart of social studies and the practice of mathematically modelling the complexity of social life, the goal of which is to create technical tools for controlling self-organization. The realization of these aims eliminates contingency from social life, leading to attempts to rationalize social emergence, which merely reveals how much as a species we depend on the world that we are creating.