Global Challenges, Governance, and Complexity
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Global Challenges, Governance, and Complexity

Applications and Frontiers

Edited by Victor Galaz

There is an increased interest in integrating insights from the complexity sciences to studies of governance and policy. While the issue has been debated, and the term of ‘complexity’ has multiple and sometimes contested interpretations, it is also clear the field has spurred a number of interesting theoretical and empirical efforts. The book includes key thinkers in the field, elaborates on different analytical approaches in studying governance, institutions and policy in the face of complexity, and showcases empirical applications and insights.
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Chapter 5: Adaptive governance from an evolutionary perspective

Michael Cox and Michael Schoon


In this chapter we discuss the history of adaptive governance before applying our own interpretation of the concept. We describe adaptive governance as a process of guided evolution, in which a set of policy experiments conducted by lower-level governance units are identified, selected for and diffused by a higher-level actor. We describe how each of these processes can be implemented, and what challenges must be addressed in doing so. Adaptive governance is necessarily multilevel from this perspective, and closely related to the concepts of fiscal federalism and polycentricity. We conclude with a discussion of the connections between these concepts and the implications this perspective has for how we view the processes of competition and cooperation in governance and adaptation. We believe our evolutionary interpretation highlights these connections and promotes consilience across scientific fields and concepts that are not usually associated with each other.

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