Computational and mathematical approaches to societal transitions

  • Jos Timmermans
  • Hans de Haan
  • Flaminio Squazzoni
Open Access


After an introduction of the theoretical framework and concepts of transition studies, this article gives an overview of how structural change in social systems has been studied from various disciplinary perspectives. This overview first leads to the conclusion that computational and mathematical approaches and their practical form, modeling, up till now, have been almost absent in the research and theorizing of structural change or transitions in social systems. Second, this review of the social science literature suggests numerous theoretical constructs relevant for transition modeling. Relevant concepts include the conceptualization of the micro-to-macro link, the importance of explaining both stability and change, quantitative and qualitative definitions of structural change, the use of dichotomies, synchronic and diachronic reasoning in explaining structural change, definitions of basic patterns of social change, the conceptualization of resistance to change and intentional and normative aspects of social change. This article employs these theoretical concepts to describe and discuss the models presented in this special issue in order to develop an understanding of what exactly entails a computational or mathematical approach to societal transitions.


Societal transitions Micro-macro link Agent-based models Complexity 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jos Timmermans
    • 1
  • Hans de Haan
    • 1
  • Flaminio Squazzoni
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Social Sciences, Dutch Research Institute for TransitionsErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of BresciaBresciaItaly

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