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The Governance of Complexity and the Complexity of Governance, Revisited.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper


Publication date09/2005
Number of pages7
<mark>Original language</mark>English


ConferenceComplexity, Science and Society Conference
CityLiverpool, UK


Complexity is complex. This is reflected, especially in the social sciences, in the status of complexity as a chaotic conception. Thus I must first reduce the complexity of complexity in order to connect it to governance rather than another topic. Indeed, faced with complexity, such acts of simplification are inevitable for any agent or operating system. This is because ontological complexity enforces selection on natural and social systems alike. One way to classify and interpret such systems is in terms of how they select selections. For social systems this involves simplification through specific meaning systems, forms of representation, and limited action repertoires. Thus we should examine the selectivity of systems and the reflexivity of agents and explore the dialectic between the complexity of the real world and the manner in which the real world comes to be interpreted as complex. Issues of governance enter here because, if complexity is a feature of the real world (and not just a social construction of particular observers of that world), it has serious implications for attempts to govern complexity. This paper revisits arguments about the governance of complexity presented ten years ago (Jessop 1997) and argues for �romantic public irony� as a response to recognition of the complexity of governance.