I am not seeking to characterize here the complexity sciences in general, but just to outline some characteristics of ‘complex relationality’ relevant to the subsequent analysis of global relationships. Overall, complexity science investigates systems that adapt and evolve as they self-organize through time. This complex systems world is a world of avalanches, of founder effects, self-restoring patterns, apparently stable regimes that suddenly collapse, punctuated equilibria, ‘butterﬂy effects’ and thresholds as systems tip from one state to another. Such dynamic, non-linear and complex properties of physical, biological and social systems stem from new ways of understanding ‘movement’.
Complex systems with very large numbers of elements do not simply sustain unchanging stability. Complexity elaborates how there is always order and disorder within physical and social phenomena, and especially in various hybrids. Order and chaos are often in a kind of balance where the components are neither fully locked into place but yet do not dissolve into anarchy. They are ‘on the edge of chaos’. Interactions between elements are non-linear so that ‘very small perturbations or ﬂuctuations can become ampliﬁed into gigantic, structure-breaking waves’. Elements at one location have signiﬁcant time–space effects elsewhere through multiple connections and trajectories. In a non-linear system: adding two elementary actions to one another can induce dramatic new effects reﬂecting the onset of cooperativity between the constituent elements.