Applications and Frontiers
Edited by Victor Galaz
Chapter 6: Understanding institutional complexity through networks
Institutional complexity has become a key concept in understanding the structure and dynamics of global governance. Yet there is conceptual confusion in the absence of a shared theoretical and methodological framework. Network theory and analysis have emerged in the 2000s as a promising analytical lens to overcome this confusion. This chapter provides an interdisciplinary review of the network approach to understanding the complexity of global institutional architectures. It starts with an overview of network science and its key theoretical and methodological approaches to the subject of institutional complexity. It then reviews the literature on global governance where network thinking has played a prominent role in the analysis, and examines to what extent network theory has helped unpack institutional complexity. I discuss key methodological and empirical challenges of network analysis, including the operationalization of institutional complexity in network terms. The chapter also proposes future research directions, highlighting the untapped potential of network theory and analysis for the emerging research program on institutional complexity.
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