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Sylvia Walby
UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, Department of Sociology, Bowland North, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK

Sylvia Walby is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University and holds the UNESCO Chair in Gender Research and an OBE for services to equality and diversity. She is one of the world's leading authorities on gender issues. Her research is situated within the tension between general social theory and specific forms of inequality, especially gender. She has an interest in economic matters, a fascination with new political forms, and concern with marginalised groups. Complexity theory is used to address the theorisation of the intersection of multiple inequalities, by revising the concept of social system. The understanding of globalisation and macro-level changes in societal forms requires new forms of social theory, especially complexity theories. The power of these theoretical developments for analysis of social change is shown in Globalization and Inequalities: Complexity and Contested Modernities (Sage 2009).

Complexity and the crisis: Rethinking the concepts of social system and path dependency for the analysis of the gendered neoliberal economic crisis

The paper advances the theorisation of the complexity concepts of social system and path dependency within the social sciences for the analysis of the gendered neoliberal economic crisis.

There are competing schools of thought as to the most appropriate way to apply complexity theory to social science. This paper does not follow the trajectory of incorporating complexity science into social science through either Luhmann or through agent based modelling. Instead it develops the hybridisation of complexity theory with sociological traditions that have developed more systemic conceptualisations of social inequality.

Challenging the postmodern turn in sociology (that rejected the concept of social system), this paper reworks the concept of social system with complexity theory, making it available for use, for example, in the analysis of the intersection of multiple systems of social inequality.

The use of the complexity concept of path dependency within social science has been subject to critical challenge from the new institutionalism. In addressing these criticisms, the concept of path dependency is further developed.

The paper uses these conceptual developments to advance the substantive analysis of the neoliberal economic crisis, including gender systems as central rather than marginal.