at the Doctoral Program in Complexity Sciences

Thomas Weber

Dissipative Structures and the Micro-Macro Relation in Society

In my PhD project I discuss how a theory transfer of the theory of dissipative structures from thermodynamics to an application in social science can be conducted. While there have already been several applications of dissipative structure theory to social phenomena, I believe that an explicit theory transfer can help to better connect the implications of the original theory with existing social science research in the field of complexity science.

In this way, it is possible to reconstruct the evolution of social structures like political institutions. This evolution is triggered by fluctuations which can be amplified if the social system is in a critical state; while the very same fluctuation might be dampened if the system is in a stable normal phase.

The theory transfer is validated by, on the one hand, an empirical case study on a public policy case and, on the other hand, by an agent-based simulation. For the empirical case study I analyze the policy discussions on the expansion of an airport and use the transferred theory to explain the dynamics and policy outputs of the case. In the agent-based simulation I evaluate if the mechanisms proposed by the theory can generate the policy outputs I have observed in the case study.


  • Weber, Thomas. Socio-Human Information Processing: Dissipative Structures in Social Systems. Presentation at Summer Workshop PhD Complexity Science. 2019.
  • Weber, Thomas. Dissipative Social Structures. Presentation at Summer Workshop PhD Complexity Science. 2018.
  • Weber, Thomas. Studying Social Institutions from a Micro-Perspective Using the Theory of Dissipative Structures. Presentation at Winter Workshop PhD Complexity Science. 2018.


  • Weber, Thomas; Louçã, Jorge; Gerrits, Lasse. Dissipative structures and the relation between individual and collective aspects of social behavior. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, Ed. Wiley. Version online, 04 January 2021. Access here.