Complexity Theory, Social Ontology, and Social Change

October 6, 2023 - October 7, 2023
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT

32 Vassar St
Cambridge 02139
United States

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Vicky Chuqiao Yang
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Pittsburgh


Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ohio State University

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We invite abstract submissions for a workshop exploring the application of complexity theory to the study of social systems, specifically those characterized by patriarchy, White supremacy, and capitalism. Recent developments in complexity theory have provided new ways of thinking about the behavior of social systems and their constituent elements. At the same time, social formations marked by these systems of power and domination have been increasingly analyzed using the complex and dynamic systems approach. 

This workshop’s central concern is understanding how complexity theory can be applied to explaining social problems and theorizing potential paths for meaningful and sustainable change. We will have a session devoted to covering the basics of complexity theory and its advantages for theorizing social change. This session will introduce the key concepts and techniques used in the field for those who are new to complex systems theory. 

We welcome submissions from philosophers in any area related to complexity theory and social systems, including but not limited to social ontology, social and political philosophy, feminist, anti-racist, or anti-capitalist philosophy, social epistemology, political epistemology, and philosophy of social sciences. We encourage submissions that engage with the following questions:

  • How helpful is it to think of patriarchy, White supremacy, and capitalism as systems or as dynamics within a complex system?

  • What insights can complexity theory provide about the nature of these systems, their interrelationships, and their interactions with other systems?

  • What are the implications of thinking about these systems as complex systems for our understanding of social change, political action, and resistance?

  • How can we apply complexity theory to real-world social phenomena, such as racial and gender inequality, labor exploitation, and environmental degradation?

Abstracts should be no more than 500 words and be submitted July 1st  using this form. Accepted speakers will be notified by August 15th. We especially encourage submissions from scholars from underrepresented backgrounds. The venue for the workshop is accessible by wheelchair, but we invite participants to notify us at the contact email address (above) or on the submission form if they have requests for further disability accommodation. For more information, email [email protected] or visit 

The workshop will feature three interdisciplinary keynote speakers. 

  • Sandra Mitchell(University of Pittsburgh Dept of History and Philosophy of Science)

  • Tina Eliassi-Rad(Northeastern University, Khoury College of Computer Science)

  • Vicky Chuqiao Yang(MIT Sloan School of Management)

Keynote talks will explore the application of complexity theory to diverse social phenomena and provide insights into the potential of interdisciplinary collaboration for advancing the study of complex systems and addressing social problems. 


International Social Ontology Society

MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

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July 1, 2023, 9:00am EST

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Ohio State University
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