Wicked Problems & Second-Order Science

” The problems that are most in need of interdisciplinary cooperation are
“wicked problems” such as food crises, climate change mitigation, and other resilience and sustainability problems (Klein 2004). Wicked problems are complex problems where there is disagreement on what the problem actually is, there are different interests and different perspectives involved that frame the problem differently, and proposed solutions often contradict each other.”


“Rather, containers change with their contents. To take a simple but non-trivial example, an empty amphora [a tall ancient Greek or Roman jar with two handles and a narrow neck] might weigh five kilos. A full one not only is valued differently; it might weigh 5 or 10 times this, changing who can lift and carry it, how one sails a boat piled high with amphorae, and how likely it is to break if it shifts or falls. In functional terms, it is a different object.”

The Prison-Industrial Complex/Rhizome

One common view is that the prison-industrial complex (PIC) is an intentional, goal directed operation–that there is a design behind it. Cleary, there are, in fact, particular actors with particular goals. But from a systems theory perspective there can be no single, grand design, designer, or primary purpose behind this thing that has evolved. There is no single Prime Mover. We can point to particular corporations or sectors of the economy such as for-profit prisons or particular people or political parties, but all of these efforts to pin blame inevitably simplify this issue.

Abjection and Liminality

According to Kristeva (1982), entities which transgress the psycho-cultural boundaries between subject and object, particularly those which appear simultaneously part of the living body-subject and yet not, inhabit a ‘space of abjection’ and generate an uncanny unease for those who encounter them. From this perspective, which seeks to yoke Mary Douglas’s ‘matter out of place’ (1966) to Lacanian theory, the psychic repulsion experienced with regard to the ambivalent and fetishized object prompts efforts to ‘cast it out’ from the self, in order to more firmly establish oneself as fully within the symbolic order.


By medicalization we mean defining behavior as a medical problem or illness and mandating or licensing the medical profession to provide some type of treatment for it. Examples include alcoholism, drug addiction and treating violence as a genetic or brain disorder. This redefinition is not a new function of the medical institution: psychiatry and public health have always been concerned with social behavior and have traditionally functioned as agents of social control.

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