BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

Complexity theory, systems thinking and international relations

Bousquet, Antoine and Curtis, S. (2011) Complexity theory, systems thinking and international relations. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 24 (1), pp. 43-62. ISSN 0955-7571.

4822.pdf - Published Version

Download (433kB) | Preview
Official URL:


The concepts, language and methods of complexity theory have been slowly making their way into international relations (IR), as scholars explore their potential for extending our understanding of the dynamics of international politics. In this article we examine the progress made so far and map the existing debates within IR that are liable to being significantly reconfigured by the conceptual resources of complexity. We consider the various ontological, epistemological and methodological questions raised by complexity theory and its attendant worldview. The article concludes that, beyond metaphor and computational models, the greatest promise of complexity is a reinvigoration of systems thinking that eschews the flaws and limitations of previous instantiations of systems theory and offers an array of conceptual tools apposite to analysing international politics in the twenty-first century.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Politics
Depositing User: Antoine Bousquet
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2012 13:36
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:33

Archive Staff Only (login required)

Edit/View Item Edit/View Item