The Concept of Self-Organized Criticality: The Case Study of the Arab Uprising
In today’s more connected, interdependent, fast, and highly globalized social world, conventional concepts and approaches for understanding social dynamics and social events have been getting weaker day by day. There is a need of more dynamic points of view and new concepts which will help us to grasp the underlying mechanisms of social dynamics and what is really happening beyond the phenomena that we observe as social events. Complexity science offers a fresh understanding of real systems, since they are usually complex. In the present study, an important concept of complexity science, self-organized criticality, is used gingerly to reinterpret the Arab Uprising, while a former study interpreted the Arab Uprising with the help of the concept “butterfly effect” of chaos theory. From chaos theory viewpoint, the starter event of the Arab Uprising which is the protest of a young Tunisian can be interpreted as the initial condition of the whole protest series and social movements. Although this approach supplies new ways of interpretations on the social movements, it misses the background state of the society. Self-organized criticality concept takes into account the whole society as a system and interprets the event not as an initial condition, but rather as a tipping point where the system which has reached a critical state begins to reorganize itself into a new state—a phase transition takes place. Has the Arab Uprising or as formerly so-called the Arab Spring finished? Was it a “spring” that the following days will bring the summer, or was it a “fall” that will bring the winter? Although the answer depends on one’s point of view, it will be understood only when the phase transition process is completed. Hence, the important thing, for everyone, is to understand the state of the society and the intentions of the organization of the society. That’s why this study seeks to explain dynamics of the Arab Uprising phenomenon with critical self-organization property of complexity theory as an alternative approach.
KeywordsArab Spring Self-organized criticality Sandpile model Complexity International relations
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