Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy
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Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

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.
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Chapter 26: The international financial crisis: the failure of a complex system

Philip Haynes


This chapter will evaluate the ongoing global international financial crisis since 2007 using a complex systems perspective. The global financial system has the attributes of a complex social system outlined in the introduction to this book. As a result, it requires a systemic application of policy interventions. The chapter explores the relevance of complex systems methodology and concepts to theorizing about the international political economy. The international and national economies are argued to be systems that display the behaviour previously identified by scientists and social scientists as symptomatic of a complex structure. At the core of this are dynamic and unpredictable interactions and feedback. A number of key concepts used previously by social scientists who apply complexity theory, and by the editors of this volume, are discussed with reference to their possible explanation of economic behaviour. In particular, this chapter applies the seminal work of the environmentalist and systems theorist, the late Donella Meadows, and seeks to develop further her conceptual articulation of how policy makers can intervene in economic systems and the current crises. Key concepts include reinforcing feedback, balancing feedback, and self-organization.

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