Presentation on the Panel Public Administration within Complex, Adaptive Governance Systems, ASPA Conference, Baltimore, MD, March 2011

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1 Göktuğ Morçöl Penn State University Presentation on the Panel Public Administration within Complex, Adaptive Governance Systems, ASPA Conference, Baltimore, MD, March 2011

2 Questions Posed by Panel Organizers Of the questions posed by the panel organizers, I will address the following, indirectly: What are the opportunities and challenges to integrating complexity science into the field of public administration? What existing theoretical frameworks are most amenable to analysis using complex adaptive systems approaches? What methodological constraints face those looking to apply complexity theory? What units of analysis are to be considered with complexity theory? How are boundaries of these units of analysis drawn? How can complexity theory address questions of scale (individual, group, institutional)? 2

3 My Arguments The micro-macro problem is the core problem of complexity theory, particularly when it is applied to public policy processes. Complexity theorists need to synthesize their own conceptual tools with those of some social theories. Social network analyses (SNA), agent-based simulations (ABS), and qualitative case studies (QCS) are (or can be) used to address this problem. 3

4 Outline of the Discussion Concepts: A definition of public policy Systems The micro macro problem Emergence as an answer Structuration as the framework Methods: A typology of complexity methods Micro macro methods: SNA, ABS, QCS 4

5 A Definition of Public Policy From a complexity theory perspective public policies can be defined as follows: Public policy is an emergent and self-organizational complex system. The relations among the elements (actors) of this complex system are nonlinear and its relations with its elements and with other systems are coevolutionary. 5

6 Systems The term system does not have a universal definition. The roots of the term system are in the Greek word synhistanai, meaning to place together (Capra, 1996). The term connotes interrelatedness of elements and integration as whole. 6

7 Systems If public policies are systems: They are not merely what rules (legislations, ordinances, etc.) spell out. They are not tools of governments. There is no direct causal link between the legislation and policy outcomes. 7

8 Systems A public policy is better conceptualized as the whole of the activities of and relations among selfconscious, purposeful, and interdependent actors. Many individual and collective actors act upon their interpretations of the principles and rules interpretations that are influenced by social construction processes and self-interests of actors. Their actions together constitute a policy system. 8

9 Systems System integration: Actors in a policy system are not necessarily all in one place or in direct contact with each other. Actors usually are in different locations and yet they are in interdependency relationships (typically resource interdependence) To the extent that the activities of individual actors and collectivities (organizations) are integrated (reciprocated and reproduced) across time and space, they constitute a social system. (Giddens, 1984) 9

10 Systems & Micro Macro Problem How are systems are integrated? This is one aspect of a larger problem: The micro macro problem The micro macro problem is the central intellectual problem of the social sciences (Coleman, 1992). 10

11 Micro Macro Problem Other names for the micro macro problem: The agency structure problem (Bob Jessop) The transformation problem (European sociology) The problem of aggregation (Neoclassical economics) The problem of social (public) choice (Rational choice theories) The collective action problem (Rational choice theories) 11

12 Micro Macro Problem Coleman s (1986) definition of the micro macro problem: It is the process through which individual preferences become collective choices and individual actions become collective actions. Interest cleavages lead (or fail to lead) to overt social conflict. Simultaneous fear in members of a crowd turns into a mass panic. Dissatisfaction becomes a revolution Preferences, holdings of private goods, and the possibility of exchange create market prices and a redistribution of goods. Individuals' task performances in an organization create a social product. 12

13 Micro Macro Problem Intellectual roots of the micro macro problem: Coleman traces the roots of the micro macro problem to: Hobbes, Smith, Locke, Rousseau, and Mill. Talcott Parsons posed this problem as the central problem of sociology and attempted to solve it with his theory of action in the 1930s. The problem remains unsolved. 13

14 Micro Macro Problem Among the prominent theories of policy processes, there are two that address directly the micro macro problem: Institutional Analysis and Development Framework (IAD) (Elinor Ostrom) Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) (Paul Sabatier) 14

15 Micro Macro Problem The models of the IAD Framework (Elinor Ostrom) 15

16 Micro Macro Problem The models of the IAD Framework (Elinor Ostrom) 16

17 Micro Macro Problem The model of the ACF (Paul Sabatier) 17

18 Emergence What is complexity theory s answer to the micro macro problem? Emergence Common conceptualizations of emergence: A system emerges from the relationships of policy actors. The properties of the emergent system is more than a simple sum of the effects of their behaviors. 18

19 Emergence Actually, there are three interrelated questions in understanding emergence: 1. Do (How do) systemic (structural) properties emerge from the interactions among actors? (process of emergence) 2. Once emerged, do emergent properties exist separately of the properties of individuals? (irreducibility) 3. Do (How do) emergent properties have causal effects on the behaviors of individuals? (social causation, downward causation) 19

20 Emergence 1. Do (How do) emergent properties emerge from the interactions among actors? Emergence is a process whereby the global behavior of a system results from the actions and interactions of agents (Sawyer, 2005, p. 2) Emergent structures are stable macroscopic patterns arising from local interactions of agents (Epstein & Axtell, 1996, p. 35). Macro patterns emerge from the interaction of agents that follow relatively simple rules (Anderson, 1999, p. 218). Emergent macro properties persist despite continual turnover in their constituents (Holland, 1998, p. 7). 20

21 Emergence 1. Do (How do) emergent properties emerge from the interactions among actors? Mechanisms of emergence: Differential persistence: mechanism of the emergence of hierarchical organizations (Holland) Preferential attachment: mechanisms of the emergence of scale-free network (Barabási & Albert). 21

22 Emergence 1. Do (How do) emergent properties emerge from the interactions among actors? Complexity Theorists simulated: Emergence of cooperation (Axelrod) Emergence of meta-agents (Axelrod) Emergence of culture (Epstein & Axtell ; Axelrod) 22

23 Emergence 2. Once emerged, do these emergent properties exist separately of the properties of individual actors? (irreducibility) There is irreducibility in nature. Anderson (1992): The properties of liquid water emerge from the properties of atoms and molecules and not reducible to them. Kauffman (1995): Life is an emergent phenomenon that arises from the properties of molecules and not reducible to them. 23

24 Emergence 2. Once emerged do these emergent properties exist separately of the properties of individual actors? (irreducibility) Is there irreducibility in social life? The controversy: Sawyer (2005): Properties of societies are irreducible to those of individuals. Epstein (2006): The notion of irreducibility is deistic and unscientific. Holland (1998): We can reduce the behavior of the whole to the lawful behavior of its parts, if we take the nonlinear interactions into account (p. 122) 24

25 Emergence 3. Do (How do) emergent properties have causal effects on the behaviors of individuals? (social causation, downward causation) Sociologists think so. Policy theorists do not pay attention to this question. This is a difficult question to answer empirically It requires long-term, dynamic, and comprehensive investigations. 25

26 Structuration Anthony Giddens s (1984) structuration theory provides a framework to address the three questions of emergence. It can help us understand the full circle of emerge: from the emergence of macro structures to downward causation. Giddens says: Social systems [including policy systems] are produced and reproduced by the knowledgeable activities of situated actors who draw upon rules and resources in the diversity of action contexts. 26

27 Structuration Giddens s concept of duality of structure: The constitution of the agents and structures are not two independently given sets of phenomena, but a duality. The structural properties of social systems are both medium and outcome of the practices of social actors. Structure is not external to individuals. Structure is always both constraining and enabling. 27

28 Structuration & Policy Systems Structural properties of policy systems emerge from the activities of individual and collective actors. Policy outcomes have emergent structural properties. They are not linearly linked to the intentions or actions of any policy actors (including governments). But, nonlinear links can be established between intentions/actions and emergent structures (outcomes). (Holland) 28

29 Structuration & Policy Systems Emergent policy structures both constrain and enable: The social construction processes among actors, The actions of actors. 29

30 Methods of Complexity Theory: A Taxonomy Macro methods: Time-series analyses Phase portraits, attractors Lyapunov exponents, Fourier Spectrum Analyses Spatial correlations Systems dynamics modeling Regression models Fractal geometry Micro-macro methods: Social network analyses Agent-based modeling Qualitative case studies Micro methods Repertory Grids Cognitive Mapping Q Methodology 30

31 Methods of Complexity Theory: Micro Macro Methods Social Network Analyses (SNA): Can be used to study both micro (individual) properties and macro (structural) properties Units of analysis: Relations among actors and their attributes Centralization and power relations in networks, network stability and change, emergent structural properties can be studied Limitations Relationships are categorized (simplified). Mainly a static methodological approach, but some dynamism can be added to analyses 31

32 Methods of Complexity Theory: Micro Macro Methods Agent-Based Simulations (ABS): Dynamic, not static (unlike SNA) Generative, not deductive Compatible with the definition of public policy I proposed (that public policy should be defined as an emergent, self-organizing, and coevolving complex system) Limitation: Artificial: Generalized assumptions about agents preferences and behavioral tendencies are used as inputs. 32

33 Methods of Complexity Theory: Micro Macro Methods Qualitative Case Studies (QCS): The European School of Complexity (the Dutch and Irish researchers) Teisman, G. R., van Buuren, A., & Gerrits, L. (Eds.). (2009). Managing complex governance systems. London: Routledge. Rhodes, M.L., Murphy, J., Muir, J. & Murray J. A. (2011). Public management & complexity theory. London: Routledge. Important and necessary to gain contextual understanding of complex systems, but not sufficient. Should be used together with quantitative methodologies, like SNA and ABS 33

34 Methods of Complexity Theory: Micro Macro Methods Ideal Scenario: Synthesize the empirical nature of SNA with the dynamism of ABS, to understand structural (macro) properties and their relations with individual (micro) properties. There are those who attempted to synthesize SNA and ABS. This synthesis yields an abstract understanding and leaves out the context. Use QCS to understand the context. 34

35 References Anderson, P. (1999). Complexity theory and organization science, Organization Science, 10, Coleman, J. (1986). Social theory, social research, and a theory of action. The American Journal of Sociology, 91(6), Coleman. J. (1992). In Mary Zey (Ed.), Decision making: Alternatives to rational choice models. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Epstein, J. M. (2006). Generative social science: Studies in agent-based computational modeling. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Epstein, J. M., & Axtell, R. (1996). Growing artificial societies: Social science from the bottom up. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. Giddens, Anthony. (1984). The constitution of society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Holland, J. H. (1998). Emergence: From chaos to order. New York: Basic Books. Kauffman, S. (1995). At home in the universe: The search for laws of selforganization and complexity. New York: Oxford University Press. Sawyer, R. K. (2005). Social emergence: Societies as complex systems. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 35

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