Figure 1a - Components of the Human Activity System

This schematic captures the components of what can be called the "human activity system" in which we all live. If we look at humans in a holistic way, as part of a system, our behaviour emerges from the interaction of the component parts (knowledge, ways of acquiring it, nature, mind, body and culture). Our behaviour in this sense is an emergent property of the system.

The boxes and the lines highlight the components, which are both areas of knowledge and sub-systems. The lines represent major interconnections. This is the simplest representation of what is a massively complex system that I could devise. Because behaviour is an emergent property of the human system (taken in total) it is fundamental to political economy. This is because the structures and culture that make up any instance of political economy are themselves subsystem of the whole. We see that the are created (constitutions get written) and the behaviours we observe are different in different political systems and cultures. Note: Human System Schematic

  • By the human system I mean the interaction of nature, mind, body and culture taking in the way we acquire knowledge and use it to shape our ethics and beliefs and culture.
  • By political economy I mean the way in which we negotiate the rules of our coexistence to enable us to rub along and earn a living. I use the term political economy in much the same way as Adam Smith or Karl Marx – economics is not separable from politics.

An immediate insight is that our culture is itself an artifact – that is culture is something we make as opposed to something we have. Furthermore once we have made it we are shaped by it (in systems terms there is a feedback loop). In case you are in any doubt about this see a round up of how culture influences behaviour Nalini Ambady on the site of the Association for Psychological Science

Our view of the word is not settled but changes over time; look at the c16 compared to the c18 and then c18 compared to c20 – culture is changing all the time Hartley . Since our culture and beliefs are subject to historical processes and will change anyway it follows that it can be changed deliberately Note: Whose Agency?

Each of the areas in the diagram with a map-pointer has pop up text that summarises the main conclusions and links to the articles (see also Using this book). My main conclusion is that we should look at human behaviour as an emergent property of the whole system represented on this diagram. I look at this in Behaviour as an emergent property.

By looking at human behaviour in this way (and as the basis for HoPE) it is realistic to think that things can be done better, and that it is possible to envisage changes that would help. However for this to happen the approach we take to politics has to change. I also take it as a given that we have a duty to act on that knowledge. The other parts of this web-site develop this proposition further and tease out exactly what it means; how do we bring about peaceful, lasting, productive, and sustainable change that will benefit mankind and allow all individuals to fulfil their potential.