Special Subject: Complexity, Pragmatism and Policy

As is now commonly recognised, the world is becoming increasingly connected and complex. Just as policy and socio-political actors can no longer view the state, market and society as distinct and separate entities, we can no longer see the global as neatly divided between powerful and distinct nation-states. Global interaction via economics, the media and the internet overwhelm these earlier rigid barriers. But how do weunderstand this new world and, equally important, how do we act within.

To try to answer that question we will explore complexity theory and pragmatist philosophy and theirapplications to politics, policy and society. The module will begin with an introduction to the development ofthe earlier ‘orderly/Newtonian’ framework played in shaping 19th and 20th century social science and publicpolicy. We will then go on to examine the paradigm shift in the natural sciences beyond the limits ofthat framework and towards a more complexity oriented paradigm. Following this we will begin toexplore how complexity has spilled over into the social sciences in the end of the 20th century and beginning ofthe 21st. We will then explore how complexity overlaps with some of the main concepts from pragmatistphilosophy and conclude with an exploration of the impact of a complexity framework on several policy areas.