A critical Discussion of Complexity Theory: How does 'Complexity Thinking' improve our Understanding of Politics and Policymaking?

Paul Cairney, Robert Geyer


In this article, we present a critical discussion of complexity theory. We ask: what does it really offer policy studies? We suggest that its stated advantages-- interdisciplinarity, theoretical novelty, and empirical advance--are generally exaggerated and based more on hope than experience. In that context, we identify a cautiously positive role for complexity theory, primarily as a way to bridge academic and policymaker discussions by identifying the role of pragmatic responses to complexity in policymaking.


Complexity theory; Interdisciplinarity; Policy studies; Democratic accountability; Pragmatism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.20377/cgn-56

Copyright (c) 2017 Paul Cairney, Robert Geyer

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