Between Self-organization and Government – a Complexity perspective on the rise and fall of the Hierarchical State

The literature on governance that has emerged in the past 15 years indicates that the position of government in society has changed substantially. This development is most often looked at as the increased complexity of Western societies and its problems, the rise  of network  forms of policymaking, and the decline of possibilities for hierarchical steering through public agencies. The first aim of this paper is to take two central concepts from complexity theory,  self-organization and co evolution, to develop a typology of relationships between government and society. Governance can then be defined as the way in which the activities of actors are coordinated around collective problems. A second aim of the paper is to use this typology to provide a historical account of the evolution of the government-society relationship. Rather than taking the hierarchical state as our starting point, we reflect on the emergence of this governance arrangement in Western Europe.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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