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 7: The Struggle for Positional Advantage

Graham Room


7.1 INTRODUCTION This chapter will complete our treatment of institutions, evolving as part of the ‘connective geometry’ of human societies. We have used a combinatorial ontology. Complex adaptive systems combine heterogeneous elements into hyperstructures; but a continuous stream of novel re-combinations endlessly reconfigures them. This process of reconfiguration we have conceptualised in terms of ‘deepenwiden-warp’. This was the ontological and conceptual framework which we drew from Kauffman’s work in Chapter 3; that we applied through Potts to economic dynamics in Chapter 4; and that we have now applied in Chapters 5 and 6 to institutions, in an account that resonates with some of the leading scholarship on institutionalism. It enables us to bring together the economic analysis of Potts and the institutionalist analysis of Ostrom and Scharpf, Crouch and Thelen, Pierson and Fligstein. It also, as promised in Chapter 1, allows us to demonstrate the convergence between institutionalist and complexity perspectives. The present chapter considers the larger positional dynamics that are thus set in motion and the extent to which they can be ‘tuned’ by those involved. It both completes and moves beyond the evolutionary model of socio-economic dynamics with which our discussion has so far been concerned. 7.2 THE DRIVE FOR CO-EVOLUTIONARY DYNAMICS The previous chapter demonstrated the similarity between the accounts of entrepreneurs offered by Potts and by Crouch. Both provide combinatorial ontologies of human creativity: Potts in relation to technological innovation, Crouch in relation to institutional. The economic agents depicted by Potts deploy their new technologies within...

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