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Choose one of the following six essay titles

1. What are the implications of complexity for our understanding of how governance should operate?

2. How is complexity linked to our understanding of the human?

3. What are the implications of complexity for our understanding of power?

4. How are resilience and complexity linked?

5. Do we still need knowledge in a world of complexity? What sort of knowledge?

6. What are the implications of complexity for our understanding of democracy and agency.

The Evolution of Complexity in Societies

The relevance of complexity in the field of social science is owing to the fact that human beings have evolved from the pre historic and pre civilizational age to being civilized. As civilization has proceeded, the life style has changed of human beings and so consequently the level of complexity has also magnified over times. Human beings in the pre historic and pre civilizational age had very little needs to be fulfilled. The intellectual faculty not being developed fully, only the fulfillment of the basic requirements which concerned itself with only the physical appetites of life, the satiation of hunger by food, and the safety concern which safeguarded life chances against getting jeopardized by agents that could generate fatal effect. As time proceeded, human beings realized that they had to innovate the methods they were indulging in for securing their chances of survival. That instinct had propelled human beings to the various inventions that they had given shape to over time responding to the plethora of need that had cropped up from time to time. With time, human beings invented more and more things which made their easier and comfortable. Human Beings did not stop at the initial spite of achievements, they proceeded even further with improvisations on the existing inventions which caused the needs to expand more and more, with the newer inventions. A society characterized by simple needs definitely did not have the mechanism to organize and meet the ever increasing requirements and aspirations of the people. That paved the way for the complexity in society. The invention of agriculture was the first step towards the drive to complexity from a simple society. Agriculture had given birth to the concept of private property and private ownership of the means of production, which was not the case previously, as the gifts of nature were more of a matter of entitlement to humankind in general, than being the prerogative of a few. With time, with the innovative inventions, there came about industrialization and urbanization, as the mode of production transformed drastically from just being pastoral to industrial and mechanized (Koriba et al 2018).

In order to epitomize the level of complexity that had grappled the society, the mention of the division of labour and the role of bureaucracy in managing the affairs of the modern system has to be done. When the society was characterized by simplicity, the situations were such that it was possible for one person to single handedly tackle all the aspects of manufacturing of a piece of article having a utility and a value attached to it. It was possible as the requirement for producing a particular good to meet the insatiable demands of the people, or in other words, the concept of mass production was not there. With the coming in of the feature of mass production, the need for efficiency arose, and that was when the requirement for division of labour for faster production process came about. Business, commercial activities, and the entire task of solving a crisis situation became institutionalized, which paved the way for bureaucracy to emerge into the scene. The role of bureaucracy was to manage the potential conflicts that arose in the complex system of functioning. Since the move has been from a rather simple society to a complex one, naturally, the problems shall also be complex which necessitates the formation of a system that would be capable and sophisticated enough to deal with the conflicts of a magnitude which would be quite complex. This is in a nutshell the basic meaning of what entails complexity. Having provided a brief account of the scope of the concept of complexity, its implications shall in the following sections be considered in the light of governance.

Implications of Complexity for Governance

Governance can be defined as the procedural aspect which involves a set of actors who perform autonomously to ensure that the common goal of all the constituent units gets fulfilled with efficiency. Governance is thus in simpler terms the task of managing the affairs of a system. In the context of the age of modernity, governance occupies the center stage in the field of enquiry that concerns itself with network studies, organizational culture, public administration and political science. Governance also concerns itself with the role of policy making hence the relevance of complexity is intertwined with it by virtue of the fact that policy making concern itself with the solving of crisis situations that emerge because of the scarcity of resources and the needs to be reconciled is way more. Complexity thus can be called as characterized by the dynamic nature of the organizations which are forever in a state of change as the needs of the hour keep on changing and organizations constantly face the need to adapt to situations with an ever increasing degree of resilience. If the organizations do not persevere to maintain their status quo in the ever changing situations which keep on growing complex, they shall have to succumb to the disintegrating forces and cease to exist. For a better understanding of the implications of complexity in the context of the governance of the affair of an organization, the discussion in the following sections shall be devoted to explaining the types of complexities and their relevance in the formation and the machinations of networks. There are three types of complexities that are relevant for the discussion of the implications of it in governance. They are, substantive complexity, strategic complexity, and institutional complexity. In the following sections, each of it shall be taken up for discussion. Each of the complexities concerns itself with the nature of problems and crisis situations that crops up. It shall be in the context of the problems shall the relevance of complexities in governance shall be analyzed. In this context it is also necessary that the difference between complexity and the factor of complicatedness. The basic premise from which emanates the difference between the two lies in the fact how each of it can be tackled and overcome. With the acquisition of more knowledge, information and the necessary skills the problem of complicatedness can be simplified to a manageable degree (Sørensen and Torfing 2016). On the other hand the taming of the factor of complexity is something which is impossible. It is so, simply because of the fact that complexity is a forever persisting state of affair which keeps on gathering momentum and strength with time. In this particular context, this has to be mentioned that the governance networks are embodiments of the factor of complicatedness given the fact that it consists of several units and sub units which make up for the wholeness of the system. While, the larger environment in which the organizations function, or the task of governance is conducted, namely the market, the society, the state, accounts for the factor of complexity. They remain constant, and they keep on exerting their influence which propels governance to revamp itself from time to time for the sake of maintaining the status quo of its own existence. This implies that it is the factor of complexity that has kept the task of governance alive, and without complexity, the relevance of governance shall be lost. In the following sections the different types of complexities shall be discussed along with an account of how they shape the process of governance.

Types of Complexity Relevant to Governance

Substantive complexity concerns itself with the sum total of the contents that form a part and parcel of the problem. Alongside that, substantive complexity also addresses the kind of solutions that would be appropriate for a particular kind of complexity, judging upon the intensity of the problem and the propensity it has to jeopardize the procedural aspect of governance. In the realm of public administration studies, it is often attributed to the situation caused by a serious lack of the necessary and basic information and the backing up of the inferences drawn from researches, that the substantive complexity comes about to exert an influence which hampers the workings of administration and governance related work (Koppenjan and Klijn 2015). However that is not to be considered as an unsurmountable problem as propounded by the scholars of public administration and other allied disciplines of social science. Further researches in the field with a scientific approach for bringing about more accurate, objective and uniformly verifiable results for enhancing the workings of an organization, and also smoothening the process of governance (Klijn and Skelcher 2007). The scholars opine that the relevance of a particular knowledge or theory that is derived to solve a particular crisis situation tends to lose its significance in the long run substantially, even if the impact and the profoundness of the intellectual enquiry having a philosophical undertone is long lasting. It happens so, simply because of the reason which has already been discussed, that the nature of complexity tends to grow and gather momentum over time, which is why the situations tend to pose such requirements which propels human beings to find out newer solutions to the complexities that tends to become more difficult to overcome over time (Marcussen and Torfing 2006). Naturally, as a result of it, the body of knowledge tends to become old and outdate and redundant. Scholars in the context of explaining the implications of substantive complexity in determining the mode of governance to be undertaken also mention of the fact that merely deriving knowledge out of a scientific enquiry and research is not enough. It has to be ensured that the knowledge derived must be functional to deal with the specificities and nuances of the complexity. It has to be given due consideration that complexities can have varied impact, it can exert an influence which shall be affecting the workings of an administrative set up and the process of governance on an overall basis, or it can be nuanced by affecting certain key areas (Koppenjan, and Klijn 2004). That factor of applicability needs to be diagnosed and for that purpose the validity and relevance of the information in solving the complexity must be contested on a regular basis. An administrative set up which is aimed at governance is not an organic whole, it is made up of constituent units who are likely to have different value perceptions and viewpoints that differ from each other, since every individual is endowed with a faculty that enables them to view a specific problem from a different angle and thereby find solutions with a different approach (Torfing et al. 2012). Substantive complexity thus entails that reaching at a policy decision is a difficult task simply because the plethora of opinions and viewpoint tend to confuse and detour the process of reaching at a definite decision. Administrative set ups and the process of governance cannot function for the purpose of achieving the desired outcome if the democratic ethos is not maintained by allowing the free flow of discussions and deliberations. Also it is not desirable that the most suitable solution for solving a particular issue is arrived at without looking at the issue from various angles to diagnose the problem in a better way. As it has already been discussed that complexity and complicatedness are inevitable characteristic features of organizations and the more one tries to evade that, the more on gives in to the disintegrating forces easily (Sørensen and Torfing 2009). Hence the scholars have provided for an effective way to deal with the substantive complexity. It has been opined that substantive complexity is not a problem that crops up as a result of a lacuna in the amount of information as such. Rather, an unmanageable array of information or an excessiveness of the quantity can cause more problems than bringing about any worthwhile solution by confusing the decision makers instead. That situation has been defined by the scholars in academic terms as the condition of information overload, and the resultant inconvenience that emerges is that of the inhibitions posed in the way of articulating the viewpoints. Thus the only worthwhile solution is the reconciliation of the most suitable and the probable solutions from the array of solutions. Alongside, a more judicious approach to diagnosing the nature of the problem is also expected with focus on the issue areas which deserve attention. In simpler words, the solutions must be context specific and relevant (Klijn, Steijn, and Edelenbos 2010).

Substantive Complexity

In the previous section dealing with substantive complexity, the point of decision making had been harped upon which refers to the processes involved in reaching at a suitable solution. And also that it is a collective effort involving a lot of debates, compromises and reconciliations of opposing elements (Mandell, 2001). This particular procedural aspect is in academic parlance, relevant to the discipline of public administration and the branch of enquiry concerned with organizational culture is called as strategy, or the task of strategizing. Theorists researching in the field of network studies have thus spoken of complexity that is inherent and is caused by the strategizing process, and have termed it as Strategic Complexity (Gage Mandell, Krane 1990). The component actors who make up for the organization are entitled to act autonomously within the framework of the bureaucratic set up. There is hardly any control mechanism which can check this factor from growing into a problem as the autonomy which is granted to the actors are done keeping in mind the interest of the organization (Scharpf 1994). The autonomy granted to the actors enables them to think and act independently which shall ultimately end up in benefitting the organization. In case the situation wherein all the actors are deprived of exercising their autonomy and they are forced to think in a uniform way then it shall not prove to be good for the interest of the organization. The risk of it shall be that a problem shall not be viewed at from different angles and the potentiality of intercepting the dangers effectively shall not be fulfilled. On the other hand, the allowance and the leisure to take decisions autonomously can also prove to be problematic if that does not let the organization to reach at a definite decision (Klijn and Koppenjan 2000). This situation of complexity as it has been discussed focuses on the aspect of the conflict situation that arises as a result of interaction between the constituent actors who form a part of an organization and devote their enterprise to reach at decisions. The actors have this tendency to anticipate the motives of other actors and thereby their personal decisions gets influenced by that. They tend to act in a way which would enable them to supercede the others and create an image of importance for the self (Kooiman 2003). This also leads to an unhealthy competition amongst the peers within an organizational set up. The overwhelming of the collective interest by the personal interest is a reason why the strategic complexity crops up in an organizational set up. This particular form of complexity makes the nexus between indeterminacy and the factor of complexity within an organizational set up very evident (Meuleman 2008). The indeterminacy that has been harped upon in this context has to do with the inconvenience in reaching at decisions with immediate effect, as the doubt and inhibitions about the kind of strategy an actor shall be embarking upon, and in what way shall the strategies evolve in the process of reaching at a decision, and how shall the strategies exert an influence in the overall process of solving the crisis situation, whether it shall be favourable for the organization or detrimental, are to be given due importance. This characterizes the quintessential working of the networks for the sake of governance, and unexpected outcomes are unsurprisingly not at all to be considered as an anomaly. Rather it is to be treated as normal as the differences are inevitable (Pierre and Peters 2005). This is not an unsurmountable complexity as the leaders play the role of reconciling the differences effectively.

Strategic Complexity

The factors of strategies and management of information and the complexities that they entail are a part of the institutional set up, which define the process of governance. The discussion so far has been devoted to the elements which make up for the institution itself. In this particular section, the discussion shall be devoted to the complexity that is very much rooted in the institution itself (Warren 2009). This particular form of complexity is termed as Institutional Complexity in academic language pertaining to the disciplines of network studies, public administration and organizational culture (Osborne 2010). Governance networks, organizational set ups and institutions are defineable in terms of the rules and regulations they embody and the fact that they govern the functioning of them. The sum total of all relationships that seek to coordinate and control the behaviour of the actors that form the bureaucratic set up are a result of the rules and regulations that have been laid down (Teisman, van Buuren and Gerrits 2009). It is done in order to ensure that the interactions between the actors function properly within the set framework and provide a degree of cohesiveness to the relationship and interactions that form an institution. The networks are unique and distinguishable from each other by virtue of the fact that each of them are governed by a different set of rules. Since the functions of each of the networks are different, and they have, rather assigned a specific role to play in the institutional set up, it is necessary that they are governed by a different set of rules altogether that suits their specific purpose (Sørensen and Torfing 2011). On an overall basis the functional aspect of the rules and regulations in an organizational set up is to facilitate the entire process of administration and governance. Apart from that, the most vital function which rules and regulations seek to serve is to ensure that the level of complexity can be tackled effectively and moulded into a manageable level by reducing its disintegrating tendencies (McGuire and Agranoff 2011). When the level of complexity gets reduced, the cooperation among the actors forming a part of the organization gets enhanced and their behaviour, their predispositions also becomes more predictable. The disadvantage that is caused by these separate set of rules and regulations in an institutional set up is that it magnifies the level of competition between the networks, and that can reflect in hampering of the overall governance and administration of the state of affairs (Provan and Kenis 2008). The rules and regulations are formulated and implemented for the sake of ensuring that the governance can run smoothly, however if they themselves are not easily comprehensible and vague then they can cause more problems and miscommunications and that shall jeopardize the prospects of overcoming the inherent complexity that characterizes governance and the institutional set ups (Provan, Huang and Milward 2009). Also, the number of rules if they tend to increase exponentially then it can lead to further confusions and the work environment can tend to become claustrophobic. Just like increasing the quantity of information does not necessarily mean that the solution shall be guaranteed, similarly, increasing the number of rules and regulations does not guarantee smooth functioning of the governance and day to day administration (Ansell and Gash 2008). Rules and regulations are directed towards the balancing of the relationship between the actors can also lead to clashes between the networks instead of fostering harmony as the inter network. That is owing to the fact that the interaction between the members of the networks tend to become difficult as the different routines, codes of professional languages, rules and regulations, and the overall frame of reference tend to differ. However, that does not imply that these shall allow the factor of complexity to continue with having its disintegrative effect on the process of governance (O'Toole and Meier 2004). This goes as far as the implications of the complexities are concerned in an organizational set up with particular reference to the process of governance.

Institutional Complexity

In this concluding section of the essay, the issue of managing the complexity shall be discussed. The theorists who have devoted their intellectual labour to the study of organizational culture and governance have pointed out that as complexity is an inevitable part of governance, the task of overcoming the complexities is equally a defining feature of the process of governance. The process of finding solutions involve the effective arrival at policy decisions by means of coherent strategic interactions. The behavioural aspect of the actors might as well be quite unpredictable but for the sake of overcoming the complexities of the governance it is important that they are anticipated. There must be adequate scope for adaptation to the adversities by means of fostering mutual cooperation. The actors must ensure that they are a part of an organization not for the sake of securing their own benefits solely. They must ensure that their behaviour is such that they can strike a balance between their personal interests and their professional goals. That can be accomplished by means of negotiating with the strategies, which is contrary to the go-alone strategy. An organization is a collectivity and the task of governance is a collective effort hence the spirit of unison must be intact. The level of complexity shall keep on increasing and the actors are supposed to ensure that they take it up as a challenge and not be perturbed by it.


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