Table of Contents

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series

Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney

Though its roots in the natural sciences go back to the early 20th century, complexity theory as a scientific framework has developed most rapidly since the 1970s. Increasingly, complexity theory has been integrated into the social sciences, and this groundbreaking Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy has brought together top thinkers in complexity and policy from around the world. With contributions from Europe, North America, Brazil and China this comprehensive Handbook splits the topic into three cohesive parts: Theory and Tools, Methods and Modeling, and Application.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Paul Cairney and Robert Geyer

Subjects: politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


The aim of this Handbook is to improve the theory and practice of policymaking by drawing on the theory, concepts, tools and metaphors of complexity. In both theory and practice, the key aim is to advance ‘complexity thinking’, which describes a way to understand and explain the policymaking world, act accordingly, and invite others to do the same. To do this, the Handbook brings together a wide range of specialists to address these issues from different angles: disciplinary specialists examining how complexity thinking influences the study of topics such as the law, philosophy and politics; interdisciplinary teams examining how best to model or describe complex systems; case study specialists explaining the outcomes of real world events; and scholars and practitioners examining how to ‘translate’ complexity theory into ‘simple’ policymaking advice. This is an ambitious project which applies a new theoretical approach to the philosophy, methodology and real world case studies and practice of politics and policymaking. Its ambition is in keeping with the approach of many well-established complexity theorists. It is common in the complexity theory literature to make bold claims about its novelty, reach and explanatory power: to say that it is radically new; a scientific revolution that will change the way we think about, and study, the natural and social world.