The Complexity of Difference, Ethics and the Law

  • Wilmien Wicomb
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 26)


In this chapter, it is argued that the recent attempts at re-establishing the significance of the differences between people, rather than reducing humanity to a universality of sameness in the name of, for example, justifying human rights, run into the same problems that plagued a complete disregard for difference. This is the result, it is argued, of continuing to posit difference within a system of meaning fixed by a central organising principle – precisely the way humanity was fixed by the emphasis on sameness. Using Derrida’s critique of the “structurality” of the structure of such fixed systems, it is argued that difference and diversity can only be approached meaningfully if it is allowed to reside within a system of meaning without an organising principle. The theory of complexity provides just such a systems approach. It is argued that in order to retain the tension between identity and difference, we must give up on the notion of a static system of difference and embrace the uncertainty of a dynamic, ever-changing system of difference. This argument is applied to the system of law and particularly its engagement with diversity both in the broader sense of rights analysis and the particular engagement with the difference between formal and substantive equality.


Substantive Equality Human Diversity Universal Description South African Society African Charter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Legal Resources CentreCape TownSouth Africa

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