Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney
Chapter 6: Can we discover the Higgs boson of public policy or public administration theory? A complexity theory answer
On 4 July 2012, the scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) declared that they had ‘nearly discovered’ the Higgs boson. This discovery generated excitement among particle physicists and the general public. After the centuries-old scientific quest in search of the most fundamental laws of the universe, have the scientists finally discovered the most fundamental particle of entire existence, what Lederman and Teresi (1993) call the ‘God Particle’? Was this one of those rare events in history when physicists precisely and definitively discovered a universal truth? I cannot answer these questions from a physicist’s perspective; I will take The CERN’s declaration that they had ‘nearly discovered’ the Higgs boson as the statement of truly what happened. Instead, in this chapter I will use the search for and the (near) discovery of Higgs boson as a metaphor for the aspirations of many scientists – including social scientists – to achieve the goal of creating a universal, deductive and quantitative/precise science. I will ask this question: is it possible to discover the God Particle of public administration or policy – the fundamental explanation of what public administration or policy is all about? I will answer the question from a complexity theory perspective.
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