Complexity and the Place of Formalism in Social Science

  • Scott Moss


There is a longstanding and widespread view amongst social scientists that simulation experiments are what you do when a problem is too complicated to yield closed form, analytical results. Even in social science journals that are especially well disposed towards simulation, it is sometimes argued to be a good feature of a model that it is simple enough to yield some analytical results. [1], for example, argue that their model of financial market behaviour is preferable to previous models because “[t]he simplicity of the model allows us to estimate the underlying parameters, since it is possible to derive a closed form solution for the distribution of returns.” This is seen as preferable to more complicated models without any consideration of whether more complicated models capture any essential aspects of the social processes under consideration.


Machine Tool Gross Domestic Product Closed Form Solution Complicated Model Steady Growth 
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© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Moss
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Policy ModellingManchester Metropolitan UniversityManchesterUK

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