The Emergence of Complexity

Rethinking Education as a Social Science

  • Paul Hager
  • David Beckett

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Situating Current Problems

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 3-12
    3. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 13-30
    4. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 31-53
    5. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 83-124
  3. Infusing Complexity Through Co-Present Groups

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 125-125
    2. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 127-153
    3. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 155-183
    4. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 185-218
  4. Dissolving Problems as Complexity Emerges

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 219-219
    2. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 221-247
    3. Paul Hager, David Beckett
      Pages 249-280

About this book


This book centres on a broadened view of complexity that will enrich engagement with complexity in the social sciences. The key idea is to employ complexity theory to develop a holistic account of practice, agency and expertise. In doing so, the book acknowledges and builds upon the relational character of reductive accounts. It draws upon recent theoretical work on complexity, emergence and relationality to develop a novel account of practice, agency and expertise in and for workplaces. Biological, psychological and social aspects of these are integrated. This novel account overcomes problems in current views of practice, agency and expertise, which suffer from reductive, or fragmented, analyses, based upon individuals, groups, or networks. In retrieving the experiential richness of human activity – often esteemed as the basis of generative and creative life – this book shows how complexity both emerges from, and is, a non-reductive feature of, human experience, especially in daily work.

“…an ambitiously wide-ranging volume, questioning the key tenets of respected approaches ….. and offering ….. ‘novel accounts’, which draw on features of complexity thinking…. …But they go further than any of us in their argument that: ‘whatever reductive moves are made, they ‘flow’ from holistic accounts of relationality which have already affectively engaged the purposes of a co-present group.’ This is the intellectual contribution that is built consistently and persuasively across the chapters.” 
Professor Emerita Anne Edwards, Oxford University

"Hager and Beckett have written a book that will challenge more commonly held notions of agency, practice, skills, and learning. Centering their argument on complexity theory or, as they prefer, complexity thinking, Hager and Beckett argue that it is through relations that we raise questions about, gather data from, and make working sense of the complexity that surrounds us. Groups then, particularly small groups, hold and implement agentive power. And what the authors call co-present groups—ones in which holistic relationality occurs socially, and affectively in distinctive places—“draw us closer to each other, and harness our normativity by enabling negotiability and reason-giving.” If your field of study involves anything remotely sociocultural in nature or if you are just interested in the complex ways we engage as humans with our worlds, you should find a place for this book in your library."
Bob Fecho, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York NY, USA


Actor Network Theory Complex social systems Complexity theory Distributed expertise Emergence social sciences Evidence-based practice Expertise development Interprofessionality Lifelong learning Organizational learning Peer-based responsibility Practice learning Professional learning Relational turn social sciences Relationality social sciences Workplace agency Workplace expertise Workplace learning Workplace practice Judgement-based practice

Authors and affiliations

  • Paul Hager
    • 1
  • David Beckett
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne Graduate School of EducationThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Education Education (R0)
  • Print ISBN 978-3-030-31837-6
  • Online ISBN 978-3-030-31839-0
  • Series Print ISSN 2366-1658
  • Series Online ISSN 2366-1666
  • Buy this book on publisher's site