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'Perturbation Management' as a Policy Tool

Governance
International Relations
Policy Implementation
Policy-Making
Theoretical
Effie Charalampaki
Center for International Politics, Institute of International Relations, Athens, Greece
Effie Charalampaki
Center for International Politics, Institute of International Relations, Athens, Greece

Abstract

Drawing on Complexity and Chaos Theory literature, this paper attempts to present a novel approach to policy making if social systems, regional systems, international organizations, military, political and economic alliances/partnerships and even terrorist groups and other transnational networks are examined and analyzed as complex adaptive systems (CAS) that exhibit certain distinct characteristics such as resilience, adaptive behavior and critical self-organization to micro and macro “butterfly effects,” dynamism, complexity, emergence, cooperation, coevolution, self-similarity (i.e., the whole is not the sum of its parts, but smaller formations by the agents of the whole are similar to the whole) and nonlinearity. CAS exhibit extreme resilience to “perturbations” in their environment that may come in the form of shocks and tipping points, crises, change and conflict. This creates high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability that are very difficult to be managed by policy makers. Perturbation management as a policy tool has the potential to examine the role of unpredictability and change under a new light in the highly interdependent and interconnected environment of the 21st century, that is characterized by a multiplicity of actors and networks that constantly and simultaneously interact, conflict and cooperate with each other at the micro and macro levels of human life “along the domestic-foreign frontier” (Rosenau 1997). One of the greatest problems for policy makers, both domestically and internationally, is how to create and apply policies that foresee the behavior and dynamism of actors and networks when perturbations of uncertainty at the micro and macro levels of governance structures make the implementation of policy problematic and ineffective and the prediction of outcomes by a certain course of action very difficult to almost impossible many times. New forms of governance that exploit complexities that did not exist in other eras require new theoretical foundations that address the complexity of our era: policy making, thus, becomes an evolutionary process of high dynamism that addresses the nonlinearity of a turbulent micro-macro environment, employs strategies for coping with non-anticipated perturbations that create high uncertainty and accommodates this complexity and uncertainty in environments that are difficult to control (Ford 2015). The paper concludes by presenting the pros and cons of utilizing Complexity science as an innovative theoretical foundation for policy making and by presenting briefly the key elements of a “perturbation management” strategy that could inform policy makers when they are especially confronted with the problems of prediction and uncertainty in turbulent environments. References: Ford, Christopher A. "Musings on Coplexity, Policy, and Ideology." In World Politics At The Edge Of Chaos: Reflections On Complexity And Global Life, edited by Emilian Kavalski, 79-109. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2015. Rosenau, James N. Along The Domestic-Foreign Frontier: Exploring Governance In A Turbulent World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.