Complexity from the Sciences to Social Systems

  • Alex WilliamsEmail author
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)


What is the legitimate way to apply the findings of complexity theory from the physical sciences in the social domain? This chapter summarises recent philosophy of science on the requirements and features of complex systems in general. It concludes that complex systems must consist of a number of elements in non-linear relationships with one another producing emergent effects in irreversible time. From this starting point, the author proceeds to consider how complexity concepts can be imported into the social sciences, with a number of distinct methodological approaches to doing so considered. Finally it considers how to chart a path between the weaknesses of both scientistic and post-structuralist approaches to complexity thinking within social systems.


Social complexity Emergence Cybernetics Post-structuralism Feedback Non-linearity 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication StudiesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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