Complex systems and exosomatic energy metabolism of human societies

by Ramos Martin, Jesús

Abstract (Summary)
The present dissertation deals with the issue of the importance of energy flows in driving the evolution of economies on time, from less to more organised structures. From less to more complex systems. Economic development is a process, not a final goal to be achieved by any society. It is related to the economic evolution of human systems as well as with their interaction with the environment. Therefore, a biophysical analysis is needed to fully understand the process. The Thesis comprises both a theoretical and an empirical part. The first one consists of Chapters 1 to 5, which are mainly of theoretical content. This is the part dealing with the relationship between economic theory, complex systems theory and thermodynamics. Chapter 1 briefly presents the relationships between complexity, energy, and economics that are developed with more detail throughout the Thesis. Chapter 2 presents energy analysis under the framework of the different schools of economic thought. Stress is given to the revival of the classical interest in production, as we can find among those who call themselves ecological economists. In fact, one of their major advances of this school has been the incorporation of the insights of thermodynamics to economic analysis. They have mainly used the Second Law of thermodynamics and its major result, the irreversibility of processes, and therefo re the importance of History. Chapter 3 deals with the issue of complexity and self-organisation. Chapter 4 uses the concepts developed in previous chapters to characterise human systems (i.e. economies) as open complex systems far from (thermodynamic) equilibrium. Their major characteristics are presented, focusing on their hierarchical structure and their functioning via autocatalytic loops that link each level of the system. The evolution of economic systems is analysed in Chapter 5, both from a traditional economic perspective and from an evolutionary one, in which history counts. The explanation is based on thermodynamic analysis, in the sense than the relation between energy dissipation and development is the focus. The second part consists of 4 published papers in international refereed journals (Chapters 6 to 9) and one paper to be submitted soon after it is presented at an international conference in July 2005 (Chapter 10). The first of the papers (Chapter 6) is still theoretical, dealing with the issue of empiricism in the field of ecological economics to analyse the evolution of societies. The second one (Chapter 7) presents the first application I made back in 2001 of the MSIASM methodology, to analyse the evolution of the Spanish economy over time, and helps the reader to be familiar with the methodology. The third paper (Chapter 8) represents a step forward in the theoretical development of the approach used, and helps in fully understanding the potentialities of such methodology, by introducing key concepts such as mosaic effect or impredicative loop analysis, that help developing better narratives for using when analysing sustainability. The fourth paper (Chapter 9) presents another application of MSIASM, this time for understanding its possibilities to help explain past trajectories of development and to help elaborate scenarios of future development. The fifth paper (Chapter 10) is the last application of the methodology. The paper represents an analysis of the economic development of a major actor nowadays, China, by applying MSIASM to try to get different answers to the usual questions regarding the relationship between economic development and energy dissipation.
This document abstract is also available in Spanish.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Giampietro, Mario; Martinez Alier, Joan

School:Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona

School Location:Spain

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:412 departament d economia i historia economica


Date of Publication:10/31/2005

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