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The Electronic Journal: Social Issues
Volume One. Issue 2 November 2001

Discussion Questions

The articles in this volume offer debate on the possibilities offered by complexity science for policy analysis and formation. They are based on papers given at a Workshop addressing this theme (March, University of Salford). At the workshop many questions were raised and this page similarly offers a number of questions for discussion.

  • Are we asking complexity science to do too much if it is used to understand the behaviour of individuals, populations, organisational dynamics and social policy itself?
  • If we are to use complexity science to understand social policy what is the essence of the system? Is it, for example, human actions, communications, language, meaning, social/technological hybrids? How does complexity science deal with these possibilities?
  • What is the role of human agency in models of social policy using complexity theory?
  • How can complexity science deal with concepts of 'inequality', 'democracy' and 'justice'?
  • What is the role of power in analysis drawing on complexity science?
  • What is the role of gender or race/ethnicity for complexity science? Is gender, race/ethnicity fundamental to the approach, an additional variable for a system, or is complexity science gender blind, racially/ethnically blind?
  • What does complexity science imply for performance indicators ? What is the relationship between such indicators and the perspective of those internal or external to the system?
  • How can organisational behaviour be steered towards social policy goals?
  • What does complexity science imply for our abilities to plan futures for social policy?
  • If complexity science is used in policy formation, can we still expect to use complexity science for the analysis of policy itself?
  • What is the relationship between policy 'systems' and their environment?
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