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Bustamante-Ubilla, M.;  Arenas-Torres, F. Originating Sources of Complexity. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 20 June 2024).
Bustamante-Ubilla M,  Arenas-Torres F. Originating Sources of Complexity. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2024.
Bustamante-Ubilla, Miguel, Felipe Arenas-Torres. "Originating Sources of Complexity" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 20, 2024).
Bustamante-Ubilla, M., & Arenas-Torres, F. (2022, November 08). Originating Sources of Complexity. In Encyclopedia.
Bustamante-Ubilla, Miguel and Felipe Arenas-Torres. "Originating Sources of Complexity." Encyclopedia. Web. 08 November, 2022.
Originating Sources of Complexity

Complexity is born under the wing of the social sciences, promoting the transposition of some contents of biology and natural sciences to the social sciences and behavior of humans. The sources of complexity are diverse and often divergent some coming from immaterial and subjective sources, such as those of the human mind, which implies appreciating behaviors and individual behaviors, for example, of men and women, and of groups that affect the global system, to which other sources that derive from the rise and fall of technologies that are expected to generate progress and social development.

complexity society social systems organization

1. Originating Sources of Complexity

The sources of complexity are diverse and often divergent [1][2], some coming from immaterial and subjective sources, such as those of the human mind [3][4], which implies appreciating behaviors and individual behaviors, for example, of men and women [5], and of groups that affect the global system [6][7], to which other sources that derive from the rise and fall of technologies that are expected to generate progress and social development [8][9], due to the effects that arise from science [10] and that technology progressively transfers [11] to society as a whole and that is observed, sometimes from a distance, by humanity, seeking to understand the behaviors of universal natural laws that manifest themselves as valid in human interaction [12][13].
To these sources of complexity, those coming from organizations are added as entities that determine their respective inter-systemic spaces of contact [14][15] and are part of the natural subsystems of society [2]. These entities are themselves systemic organisms with complex multidimensional characteristics [16][17], which analysts of complexity explore to understand and explain how the technological advance that comes from science is progressively transferred to social complexity [9][18].
However, by sequencing these concepts, the inevitable exhaustion of the traditional paradigm of modern science is appreciated. First, the eventual exhaustion may be due to the emergence and evolution of complexity theory [10][19][20], which is possible to confront and sometimes confront. On the one hand, the old model of modern science focused on the certainties provided by the method concerning the findings of the natural sciences [10], which propose evolutions and regulations of characteristics that are not necessarily linear [10][21]. On the other hand, because the theory of complexity [6][14][22] is capable of attenuating the contradictions between the natural sciences and the social sciences, integrating humanity into the supra-natural system [7][12] of which humanity is also its promoter [15][23].

2. The Complexity of People

In general, people, for biological and psychological reasons [24], are a source of complexity; on the one hand, because they assume behaviors that are very dissimilar from each other and, on the other, because, due to their diverse and even divergent nature, they assume attitudes and behaviors that can be described as complex [25][26]. This is why human behaviors are transferred from people to organizations, first, because it is evident that organizations are made up of people with complex behavior [4][22]. Second, as Maturana and Varela (1998) [24], human beings are living beings that exist in two different. However, complementary domains, one refers to the body dynamics that take place in the material environment, and the second, to the relational domain that integrates individuals in diverse groups and in specific contexts of belonging [15][27], according to Maturana and Varela (1998) [24], like the human beings that we are.
Complementing the above, although human beings live in a concrete and natural world, we do not operate directly and immediately on that world, but instead, we act within it, using the interpretations that each one’s conscience allows and that allows individuals to create mental maps [28], rational representations and simplified interpretations of the reality in which they live [2][20] and with which they interact in their natural complexity [14][22][29]. In this way, the concrete and the human converge, making people act coherently and based on their uniqueness [18][27].
Based on the above, the source of complexity that people [24] bring to themselves and to the system in which they participate [30][31] represents a different type of complexity that society integrates randomly. First, uniting diverse individuals and groups’ destructive and constructive capacities integrated into the global supra system [1][29]. Second, in their uniqueness, people provide diverse but complementary skills that allow them to learn and develop beneficial skills for themselves and the group to which they belong [4][27]. Moreover, third, based on what has been indicated, it can be said that for a social system, the sources of complexity turn out to be at least two, the external ones coming from the environment and the internal ones derived from the system itself and its human and technological components [3][14][17][32].
From the human perspective, the psychological characteristics of people who are part of social systems are emphasized [19]. In general, it is argued that the psychological characteristics of people are part of the environment [7][24][32] and that they cannot, therefore, be manipulated or reduced by the system [33]. However, the theory of Luhmann (1971) [34] and the observations of Habermas (1996) [22] confirm the fact that the psychological characteristics of identifiable individuals do indeed belong to the system [15] in such a way that the given environment, in its integrality, gives meaning to an environment or system of parts or subsystems that participate in it [29]. For the same reason, people, according to their natural singularity and consistent with their individualizable capabilities and limitations [1][27], may or may not be physiologically capable of being part of a more extensive system [18][30], to put it a didactic way, to become part of the system or environment to which one belongs or participates, the only part that the individual contributes must be able to adapt to the systemic order, in such a way that it can contribute effectively to their formation and maintenance of the supra system that shelters them [13][24].
It is then necessary to establish what is the practical limit in which the system reaches dominance, which presents a problem of logic solved through complexity theory [1][35], through the concept of limit of sense of Luhmann, which determines the borders of action of each one of the parts of the system [14][22]. Additionally, it is necessary to incorporate the evident and natural incidence of human behavior on the global system [13][15], which entails the recognition of the diverse and sometimes contradictory impact of people on the system, which can come from failures of regulatory and misconduct that generate effects that can be analyzed from the ethical perspective of human action [4][21], in terms of recognizing the links that occur in each person, in their rationality and emotionality [13] and, consequently, in their degrees of freedom, beliefs, and ideologies [6][23], since people, end up naturally transferring their behaviors to organizations [20][26]. So, it seems evident that the ethical dimensions of human actions, communications, and acts [36] generate and transfer complexity in the domain in which they operate, expressed in a diverse and sometimes divergent way within the general system [6][22][37]. However, the limits identified in the company beyond the breadth of the environment [3][26] allow it to be said that people’s psychological and relational characteristics [13] are a constituent part of the supra system. Additionally, as indicated, they are a source of the internal complexity of the system or subsystem in which people work [2][14][22].

3. Intra Systemic Interactions of Complexity

Based on the fact that complexity comes from the behavior of people [5][38], whether it occurs at the individual level or through groups [39], its effect has caused organizations to evolve by exploring the introduction of mixed methods of adjustment with reality [20][40], first, assuming the inherent complexity that derives from its processes and components [25], and internalizing the complexity that comes from the environment or subsystem in which it operates [14][22][41]. Complexity is, therefore, according to this way of expressing it, a measure of the number of states of the world that come from the complexity of the world [16][18], which are integrated into the number of states that the world can assume subsystem, giving rise to its complexity [5][14]. These two states of the world and the system assume and summarize the portion of the world in which organizations operate and have decided to serve [16][42][43].
By generalizing the relationship between both sources of complexity, own and world, it is possible to explain why the complex behavior of social systems [25][36], since the order of a social system as part of a complex system [22][37] is as impossible as the order of the more extensive system in which it is integrated [10][30]. Consequently, there is a relationship or link between the system and the subsystem, which refers to the fact that it is impossible to seek a one hundred percent effective relationship between the actions of organizations and their adaptability to the complex environment, as Habermas (1996) [22] states. Then, a link between the part and the environment is defined based on the principle of correspondence [32][44][45], which makes it possible to assume that there will always be degrees of consistent assimilation or spaces of incongruity in the decisions adopted by the subsystem, regardless of the organization or social subsystem analyzed [18][29][46].

4. The Complexity of Organizations

Without prejudice against the natural complexity that comes from people [13][24], it is necessary to complement the analysis with the study of organizations defined as constitutive subsystems of the social supra system [10][37]. First, given the multidimensional nature of organizations, their very existence and behaviors add complexity to the domain in which they act and, through it, to the social supra system to which they belong [31][43]. Second, organizations, depending on their endogenous diversity and complexity [9], can generate and consume various types of energy, which have random effects on the naturally complex behavior of organizations [21][36].
Based on the above, it is vital to recognize, on the one hand, that organizations operate in a subsystemic microenvironment that has limits established by the type of products, their respective brands, market share coverage, and returns achieved [7][18][42], and that it is complex to analyze, for example, industries, local or international territories included in the limit of the meaning of organizations [22][32]. Consequently, it is about the integration into a whole of various subsystems that are made up of different and varied parts or units of a social, economic, technological, and process nature, among others [9][23], each of which is, in turn also complex [14][37]. Therefore, based on this analysis, complexity should not be used as a simple adjective but should be elevated to a substantive concept [1][3][35], as it has the epistemological capabilities that allow analysis and highlights the conformation of systems, subsystems, and supersystems inserted in specific space-time contexts, which are in turn made up of subsystemic parts defined by their uniqueness [18][29][32][46].
About the subsystemic contexts and, depending on their relative complexity [2][29][47], it is possible to affirm that, within the global supra system, spaces are produced that explain the existence of different types of systems, some called open systems that evolve following the so-called arrow of time and others, called closed systems [9][16]. The former because they can progressively generate energy, and the latter because they tend to lose part of the energy necessary to interact in the more extensive system to which they belong [4][10][36]. These two characteristics are included in their dynamics by the concepts of negentropy and entropy, respectively [7][16][24], since some of the subsystems lose energy due to the increase in randomness and the irreversible disorder of the passage of time [35][48]. In contrast, other subsystems produce energy by internalizing capabilities and technologies into their internal processes [6][37].
Additionally, it must be said that the suprasystem also behaves in progressively changing states, on the one hand, increasing disorder and, as a consequence, giving rise to distortions that affect all its subsystemic components [3][16][23][31]. On the other hand, the supra system can generate the necessary forces to produce a new order within a new state of relations of its constituent parts [37].
Thus, for example, the new order can be located far from the equilibrium derived from the waves, waves, or surges generated by the subsystems within the general system [1][9][33] or generate the links and necessary parts that allow the subsystems to absorb the tensions and their effects, which is evidenced in the creation of the so-called dissipative structures suggested by Urry (2004) [48] and González (2009) [35], capable of restoring order or generating new subsystems that give rise to the creation of a new order, by the way, within a global system, which may still be in a particular state of the disorder [3][16]. This process is called the subsystemic source of negentropy [9]. Consequently, subsystems may be able to create spaces of localized order that allow them to float in a state of the general disorder [16][33][49] and where flows, waves, and stability are innovatively combined, emerging structure from chaos [18][35].
Based on the above, the concept of complexity [1][35] has its origin in the existence of open systems and the qualities of entropy and negentropy that vital systems possess to ensure their existence [18][35] in such a way that the systems acquire the capacity to rescue degrees of relative stability at the social and market level [9][11][36], establishing relationships, dependencies and incidences probabilistic within complex systems that intersect negentropy and entropy, creating subsystemic spaces of stability that overcome states of extreme randomness [3][9]. Consequently, if the systems analysis of the sciences of complexity is transferred to social groups, it is observed that they exhibit similar probabilistic latent capacities [13][50], in some cases, where their parts establish relationships and patterns [18][47], which behave in a non-linear way [35] and on other occasions, where the parties face uncertainty, for example, market or social, differentiating each other through their endogenous dynamic capacities and change [6][27].
At this level of analysis of intrasystem complexity, at least two social behaviors are verified at the societal level: those of small groups that achieve less diversity and those of larger open populations [11][26], which achieve new capabilities, assimilating talents and developing attributes that provide them with greater flexibility [43][44]. However, it is about the subsystemic spaces reaching some balance concerning the surrounding supra system [18][51], consuming a type of vital energy they use for maintenance or capturing other energies, which allows them to avoid the anti-reductionism of complexity to the extent that the parts contribute to the global system [32][35].
Explaining this process, the parts of the system contribute, on the one hand, in the form of particles or subsystems, which are added in homogeneous or heterogeneous groups forming waves that, together with other groups, are capable of transmuting into recurrent sequences giving shape to waves [35][48], which in their respective spaces generate movement, new energies, flows, and critical interrelationships of greater complexity [14][17][18]. All this process leads to new systems capable of intercepting the trends of order with those of chaos that coexists, transcending the absolutism of complete order and the randomness of chaos [43][44].
Finally, from a social perspective [1][11], complexity derives from the relationships and interdependencies of people in groups that go beyond individualism [13][40][52]. At the same time, they evolve beyond the holistic totality of collectivism [2][53], highlighting the person in their singularity and recognizing that as living particles, they are capable of progressively expressing themselves in their singularity and are a constituent part of the whole, for example of organizations immersed in the dynamics of social, industrial or market systems, of which they are a part [23][33][43][49].

5. Complexity of the Supra System

Luhmann’s theory (1997) [14][25] presents some essential foundations. First, the complexity of the environment must be understood, assumed, and summarized by the social system, so that it can effectively reduce the portion of the environment it decided to solve [1][32][40]. However, Habermas (1996) [22] proposes a broader alternative vision and constitutes one of his criticisms of the theory of meaning proposed by Luhmann. Habermas (1996) [22] states that, possibly, Luhmann did not realize that in social systems, there are two sources of complexity, those of the system itself and the people and that these may even be related. Thus, for example, the first is the complexity that effectively comes from the environment or system [29][54][55], which, as has been said, is learned and reduced through the definition of the sensing limit proposed by Luhmann. The second is the complexity that comes from the system itself, which derives from the endogenous learning that is progressively acquired, for example, by its personnel and which generates its transformations [33][46][49].
In social systems [14][19][25], their evolution can be seen with some clarity when analyzing the possibilities or difficulties of a system when it seeks to adapt to sudden changes in the environment [56][57][58]. In addition, these difficulties are also appreciated when analyzing less apparent sources of complexity [20][39], and which are also of great importance when assuming process and resolving implications of diverse nature and depth [41], such as the complexity generated by the constituent parts of the system [16][31][39], which in the case of organizations and their particular case of companies, they include the dynamic and complex components that come from social systems [10][14][25][37], and from people, essentially complex as been demonstrated in South America [53][55][58][59].


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