Complexity theory and public administration: What's new?

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Increasing attention is being paid to the application of complex systems theories in the social sciences. Although this trend is less prominent in the field of public administration, some examples of the use of complexity theory in research in this domain can be found. This article discusses three central ideas in complex systems theory that are relevant for public administration research: dynamics, self-organization and co-evolution. After briefly introducing each idea, the article traces similar concepts in public administration research. It then contrasts them with each other, and discusses how they can improve our understanding of phenomena in public administration. Finally, the article explores how the manager's role is perceived in public administration and what insights complexity theory can add to that view.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-317
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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