De la crisis a las transiciones críticas en sistemas complejos: Hacia una actualización de la teoría de sistemas sociales

  • Aldo Mascareño Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez


Social systems theory conceives of crises as a negative self-description of modern society that moves into action. In so doing, systems theory renounces to understand the mechanism producing social crises in complex societies. By means of the transdisciplinary theory of critical transitions, this article identifies the lock in mechanism as the key operation producing complex crises, and presents its main dynamics. This elicits three insights in systems theory: the autopoiesis maintains the continuity of the system but also may lead to its collapse; the self-description as crisis works as a device announcing the proximity of critical transitions; and the topology of critical transitions integrates society, nature, and technology. By means of these improvements, systems theory becomes better prepared to deal with the off-scale crisis affecting modern society in the last decades.


Download data is not yet available.


Arkes, H. y Ayton, R. (1999) The sunk cost and Concorde effects: Are humans less rational than lower animals? Psychological Bulletin 125(5): 591-600.
Barfield, W. (2015) Cyborg-Humans: Our future with machines. Dordrecht: Springer.
Billi, M. (2018) Comunicación personal.
Buckminster, R. (2008) Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers.
Beck, U. (1985) Risikogesellschaft. Frankfurt: Shurkamp.
Callon, M. (1984) Some elements of a sociology of translation: domestication of the scallops and the fishermen of St Brieuc Bay. The Sociological Review 32(S1): 196-233.
Cordero, R. (2017) Crisis and Critique: On the fragile foundations of social life. Abingdon: Routledge.
Cordero, R., Mascareño, A. y Chernilo, D. (2016) On the reflexivity of crises: Lessons from critical theory and systems theory. European Journal of Social Theory 20(4): 511-530.
Davis, J. (2018) The Birth of the Anthropocene. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Dawkins, R. y Carlisle, T. (1976) Parental investment, mate desertion and a fallacy. Nature 262: 131-133.
Esposito, E. (2017) Critique without crisis: Systems theory as a critical sociology. Thesis Eleven 143(1): 18-27.
Gladwell, M. (2002) The Tipping Point. New York: Back Bay Books.
Gorzelak, M., Asay, A., Pickles, B., y Simard, S. (2015) Inter-plant communication through mycorrhizal networks mediates complex adaptive behaviour in plant communities. AoB Plants 7: plv050.
Haldane, A. y May, R. (2011) Systemic risk in banking ecosystems. Nature 469 (7330): 351-355.
Hodge, B. (2013) The Hydra Paradox: Global Disaster Management in a World of Crises. Globalizations 10(3): 355-366.
Koselleck, R. (1973) Kritik und Krise. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.
Koselleck, R. (2006) Crisis. Journal of the History of Ideas 67(2): 357-400.
Luhmann, N. (1984) The self-Description of society: Crisis fashion and sociological theory. Journal of Comparative Sociology 25(1-2): 59-72.
Luhmann, N. (1987) Rechtssoziologie. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag
Luhmann, N. (1997) Globalization or world society: How to conceive of modern society? International Review of Sociology 7(1): 67-79.
Luhmann, N. (2005) Funktion und Kausalität (11-38). En Niklas Luhmann, Soziologische Aufklärung 1. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.
Luhmann, N (2003) Soziologie des Risikos. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Luhmann, N. (2007) La sociedad de la sociedad. México DF: Herder.
Marquard, O. (1989) Farewell to Matters of Principles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mascareño, A., Goles, E. y Ruz, G. (2016) Crisis in Complex Social Systems. A Social Theory View Illustrated with the Chilean Case. Complexity 21(S2): 13-23.
Medina, P., Goles, E., Zarama, R. y Rica, S. (2017)Self-Organized Societies: On the Sakoda Model of Social Interactions. Complexity ID 3548591.
Mora, F., Urbina, F., Cortez, V., y Rica, S. (2016) Around the Ising Model. Springer Proceedings in Physics 173.
Parker, J. (2013) Global Crisis. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Perrow, C. (1984) Normal Accidents. New York: Basic Books.
Rengifo, F. Ruz, G. and Mascareño, A. Managing the 1920’s Chilean educational crisis. Plos One (forthcoming).
Rittel, H. y Webber, M. (1973) Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Science 4: 155-169.
Roitman, J. (2014) Anti-Crisis. Durham: Duke University Press.
Schivamoggi, B. (2014) Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaotic Phenomena: An Introduction. Dordrecht: Springer.
Scheffer, M. (2009) Critical Transitions in Nature and Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Scheffer, M. (2016) Anticipating societal collapse; hints from the Stone Age. PNAS 113(39): 10733-10735.
Scheffer, M. y Westley, F. (2007) The evolutionary basis of rigidity: Locks in cells, minds, and society. Ecology and Society 12(2): 36.
Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S., Foley, J., Folke, J. y Walker, B. (2001) Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature 413: 591-596.
Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S., Lenton, T., Bascompte, J., Brock, W., Dakos, V., van de Koppel, J., van de Leemput, I., Levin, S., van Nes, E., Pascual, M. y Vandemeer, J. (2012) Anticipating critical transitions. Science 338: 344-348.
Sternberg, S. (2013) Dynamical Systems. New York: Dover.
Strayer, R. (1998) Why did the Soviet Union Collapsed? Understanding Historical Change. London: Routledge.
Sutton, J. (2007) Sunk Costs and Market Structure: Price Competition, Advertising, and the Evolution of Concentration. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.
Tainter, J. (2017) The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thom, R. (1975) Structural Stability and Morphogenesis. Reading, Mass.: W.A. Benjamin, Inc.
Thom, R. (1990) Semio Physics: A Sketch. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
Thom, R. (2010) René Thom. Interviews with Emile Noël. Paris: IHES.
Topper, B. y Lagadec, P. (2013) Fractal Crises – A New Path for Crisis Theory and Management. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 21(1): 4-16.
van de Leemput, I., Dakos, V., Scheffer, M., y van Nes, E. (2018) Slow recovery from local disturbances as an indicator for loss of ecosystem resilience. Ecosystems 21: 141-152.
von Foerster, H. (1949) Cybernetics: Circular causal and Feedback Mechanisms in Biological and Social Systems. Transactions of the Sixth Conference. New York: Josia Macy Jr. Foundation.
Vitti, J. (2013) Cephalopod cognitiion in an evolutionary context: Implications for ethology. Biosemiotics 6(3): 393-401.
Walby, S. (2015) Crisis. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Weick, K. y Sutcliffe, K. (2015) Managing the Unexpected: Sustained Performance in a Complex World. Hoboke, NJ: Wiley.
How to Cite
MASCAREÑO, Aldo. De la crisis a las transiciones críticas en sistemas complejos: Hacia una actualización de la teoría de sistemas sociales. Theorein. Revista de Ciencias Sociales., [S.l.], v. 2, n. 1, p. 109-143, july 2018. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 july 2019.