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Shifting Paradigms: The Potential for Quantum Social Change


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On 2 October, Karen O’Brien, Alexander Wendt, Ann El Khoury and others led a webinar called “Shifting Paradigms: The Potential for Quantum Social Change.” This 90-minute discussion examined the questions: What role do paradigms play in limiting or accelerating rapid social change? How can alternative paradigms influence research and practice?

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Shifting Paradigms: The Potential for Quantum Social Change

  2. 2. Webinar Agenda Introduction: Is it time for a quantum leap? (Karen O’Brien, University of Oslo) The Politics of Ontology: Resistance to Quantum, Quantum as Resistance (Alexander Wendt, Ohio State University) Applying Quantum Ways of Knowing and Doing: Kerala and Alternative Development Pathways (Ann El Khoury, Maquarie University) Reflections from Leonardo Orlando (Sciences Po); Chad Monfreda (Princeton University), and Ananka Loubser (North-West University, South Africa) (15 minutes) Responses from Alexander Wendt and Ann El Khoury
  3. 3. INTRODUCTION: IS IT TIME FOR A QUANTUM LEAP? Karen O’Brien Professor Department of Sociology and Human Geography University of Oslo, Norway
  4. 4. Figueres, Christiana, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Gail Whiteman, J. Rockström, Anthony Hobley, and Stefan Rahmstorf. 2017. “Three Years to Safeguard Our Climate.” Nature 546 (7660): 593–595.
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  6. 6. Climate Change: The classical paradigm • Humans are completely material • Mental states are nothing but brain states (consciousness is an illusion or epiphenomenal) • Humans are individual, i.e. biologically and mentally separate (subject-object dualism, nature as separate) • No role for experience, meaning, or purpose (these depend on consciousness) • No free will (choice is an illusion) • Humans as machines or zombies (determinism) What if these assumptions are wrong?
  7. 7. “Quantum mechanics forced physicists to reshape their ideas of reality, to rethink the nature of things at the deepest level, and to revise their concepts of position and speed, as well as their notions of cause and effect.” (Kleppner and Jackiw, 2000) Kleppner and Jackiw (2009) One Hundred Years of Quantum Physics ,Science 289: 893-898
  8. 8. “If human beings really are quantum, then classical social science is essentially founded on a mistake, and social life will therefore require a quantum framework for its proper understanding.” (Wendt 2015, p. 16) Wendt, A. 2015. Quantum Mind and Social Science. Cambridge University Press
  9. 9. “Quantum theory … has informed a newly probabilistic social science where reality and the representation of reality (or its performance and construction) incorporate potentiality, not simply actuality. (El Khoury 2015, p. 207) El Khoury, Ann. 2015. Globalization Development and Social Justice: A Propositional Political Approach. 1 edition. New York, NY: Routledge.
  10. 10. ‘In this book I explore the possibility that this foundational assumption of social science is a mistake, by re-reading social science «through the quantum.’ More specificaly, I argue that human beings and therefore social life exhibit quantum coherence – in effect, that we are walking wave functions. (Wendt 2015, p. 3) Wendt, A. 2015. Quantum Mind and Social Science. Cambridge University Press