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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Complexity Theory in Political Science and Public Policy
Author(s): Cairney, Paul
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Keywords: public policy
complexity theory
political science
Issue Date: Sep-2012
Date Deposited: 24-Jul-2013
Citation: Cairney P (2012) Complexity Theory in Political Science and Public Policy. Political Studies Review, 10 (3), pp. 346-358.
Abstract: Advocates of complexity theory describe it as a new scientific paradigm. Complexity theory identifies instability and disorder in politics and policy making, and links them to the behaviour of complex systems. It suggests that we shift our analysis from individual parts of a political system to the system as a whole; as a network of elements that interact and combine to produce systemic behaviour. This article explores the use of complexity theory in public policy, highlighting a small literature using the language of complexity directly to describe complex policy-making systems, and a larger literature identifying complexity themes. It then highlights the main problems to be overcome before complexity theory can become truly valuable in politics and policy making.
DOI Link: 10.1111/j.1478-9302.2012.00270.x
Rights: This item has been embargoed for a period. During the embargo please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study. Publisher policy allows this work to be made available in this repository. Published in Political Studies Review, Volume 10, Issue 3, pages 346–358, September 2012, by Political Studies Association and Blackwell Publishing. The definitive version is available at

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