This chapter synthesizes the body of work using complexity science—the study of complex adaptive systems—to explore the theoretical and empirical bases for thinking of legal systems as complex adaptive systems. The chapter opens by surveying the four major sequential themes in the evolution of this research stream. First, a descriptive approach has focused on mapping complexity science concepts onto legal systems to enable explanation of legal systems as complex adaptive systems. Second, a prescriptive thrust has moved from the descriptive model towards developing principles for normatively acceptable design and operation of legal systems given their complex adaptive system properties. In similar vein, an ethical focus in the literature explores what it means to be an actor in a complex legal system. Lastly, some legal scholars have begun working with complexity science to develop an empirical studies agenda. The chapter then turns to suggestions for the legal system design principles that follow from these streams of theoretical development and practical application, and it closes by relating what has been discussed to global governance challenges.
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