The sense and non-sense of complexity concepts:

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1 The sense and non-sense of complexity concepts: The Case of resilience Andreas Duit

2 A crisis of complexity theory? Growing dissatisfaction with complexity theory (e.g. Gerrits & Marks 2015). How can we make progress? - On scientific understanding of governance? - On the practice of public administration / policymaking / planning? Resilience thinking as a test case for the applicability of complexity-based theories in social science what works, what doesn t, and why. Why resilience in social-ecological systems research? Well-developed research program based in complexity science. Applied within natural and social sciences Strong (and increasing) policy impacts.

3 Presentation outline Outline: 1) The rise of resilience 2) Brief summary of resilience theory in SES research 3) Problems 4) Possibilities 5) How to move from nonsense to sense some suggestions.

4 The Rise of Resilience Source: Google N-grams

5 in research No. of publications with resilience AND policy in title, abstract or keywords

6 in research

7 in practice

8 Resilience Thinking in SES research Started out as reaction against maximum sustainable yield /steady state theories in natural resource management. Not a coherent theory, more like a loose framework or approach -> resilience thinking. Widespread in natural resource management studies, planetary science, development and vulnerability studies, and anthropology. Anchored in complexity theory (mainly CAS theories).

9 Resilience Thinking in SES research Definition of resilience Resilience is the capacity of a system to experience shocks while retaining essentially the same function, structure, feedbacks, and therefore identity. (Walker et al. 2006) Sacred texts: Holling, C. S., and G. K. Meffe Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conservation Biology 10: Gunderson, L.H. and C.S. Holling (2002) Panarchy Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Washington: Island Press Berkes F. and C. Folke, eds Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

10 Resilience Thinking in SES research Cornerstone concepts: Coupled socio-ecological systems (SES) Complex adaptive systems (CAS), Panarchy, and the Adaptive cycle Regime shifts and stability domains

11 The SES

12 Panarchy and the Adaptive cycle

13 Stability domains and regime shifts

14 Policy prescriptions Policy objective: maintain or transition the SES to desirable stability domains. Adaptive management / adaptive co-management Policies as experiments Seven principles of applying resilience thinking (Biggs, R. Maja Schlüter, Michael L. Schoon (eds.) Principles for Building Resilience Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems, CUP 2015): 1 Maintain diversity and redundancy 2 Manage connectivity 3 Manage slow variables and feedbacks 4 Foster complex adaptive systems thinking 5 Encourage learning 6 Broaden participation 7 Promote polycentric governance

15 Three problems The systems problem: -Defining the system -Determinism and agency -Falsification The governability paradox: -Strong assumptions about rational and purposeful management underlying adaptive management. The problem of social change: -What exactly is a regime change in a social system?

16 Systems problems Determinism everything is a Panarchy system, and all systems cycle trough the four phases. Agency can actors really change anything in a Panarchy system? Can it be falsified?

17 Systems problems

18 Real SES Scientists Media International organizations NGOs Public adminstrations Regional Ecosystes Resource users Managing organizatio ns Elected bodies Larger ecosystems Market actors Local ecosystems Policies and instiutions

19 The governability paradox

20 The governability paradox -Adaptive management assumes omnipotent managers. 1 Maintain diversity and redundancy 2 Manage connectivity 3 Manage slow variables and feedbacks 4 Foster complex adaptive systems thinking 5 Encourage learning 6 Broaden participation 7 Promote polycentric governance If it was possible to design society to maximize resilience principles, we probably would not have any environmental problems to begin with.

21 The problem of social change

22 The problem of social change What is social change? When has a group/ /network /community /society /nation /civilization changed? Stability domains, and shifts between them, are more easily operationalized in natural systems than in social systems. Real, significant changes in social systems are often only visible over very long time periods. How do we decide which stability domain is desirable?

23 Why it doesn t work (the non-sense) Systems theory forever a problematic approach to understanding the social. The problem of theory-driven explanations, (cf. Shapiro 2004): if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Too much theory, not enough empirics. Naive conceptions of politics and policy making.

24 What it is good for (the sense) Adaptation how do societies adapt to external changes? Evolutionary component how do societies change over time? Complexity management how design robust institutions for managing volatile ecosystems? Potentially novel approach to policymaking and planning: cultivating rather than implementing policies. Alternative ontology (e.g. thresholds, tipping points, cascading effects) more in line with the nature of politics (cf Hall 2003, Pierson 2004).

25 Pathways from nonsense to sense Formulate testable hypotheses and subject them to empirical data. Demonstrate (rather than argue) analytical leverage. Use complexity theory to address general and not theory-specific research problems. Problematize issues of justice, power, social design, politics, and human agency. Connect to previous literature in social science. Abandon system models in favor of a complexity mechanism approach

26 Thank you For a longer version of this argument, see Duit, Andreas (2015) Resilience Thinking: Lessons for Public Administration, Public Administration, doi: /padm.12182

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