Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy
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Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy

Agile Decision-Making in a Turbulent World

Graham Room

Graham Room argues that conventional approaches to the conceptualisation and measurement of social and economic change are unsatisfactory. As a result, researchers are ill-equipped to offer policy advice. This book offers a new analytical approach, combining complexity science and institutionalism.
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Chapter 5: Institutional Settings and Architectures

Graham Room


5.1 INTRODUCTION Institutions have until now been somewhat peripheral to our discussion. As Chapter 2 demonstrated, complexity science struggles to handle institutional contexts and structures. There is in particular little acknowledgement of the pre-existing normative and institutional structures that dominate our lives, enforcing the rules of our interactions and giving or denying authority to the choices we make. Chapter 3, concerned with biological evolution, concluded by pointing to the importance for humans of cultural and institutional niche construction but offered little or no further discussion. Chapter 4, concerned with the economy as an evolving system, made reference to institutions as part of the ‘connective geometry’ of the economic system, but only at a rather high level of abstraction. We now develop a treatment of institutions which recognises their central place in social dynamics. We do so by demonstrating the remarkable – but so far insufficiently remarked – convergence between theories of institutionalism and of complex adaptive systems. It is this convergence that renders plausible the project of integrating them conceptually and ontologically. Chapter 3 adopted an ontology of mutation and recombination and applied it to genotypes. Chapter 4 did the same in relation to technologies. Each chapter used this as the basis for an evolutionary account of change. We now do the same in relation to institutions. The present chapter considers the diversity of institutional forms. Chapter 6 considers how ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ weave them into novel combinations and how these then evolve. This is the ‘deepen-widen-warp’ of institutional change. Chapter 7 is...

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