Managing complexity

Michael Josefowicz has posted these links on our Linkedin discussion group:

Another way to look at managing in the anthropocene is that it is a problem in managing complexity.
Two interesting posts to that point …

Leadership in Complexity and

The power of managing complexity – Bain & Company


Rethinking Emergence

A workshop in the series: Living in the Anthropocene – Rethinking the nature/culture divide (see previous post)

University of Southampton UK
January/February 2016
Convenor: Tudor Vilcan

Complexity theory presents a fundamental challenge to the rationalist principles of liberal modern thought and governance. Whereas the latter is premised on the ability of subjects to predict and control the world around them, complexity theorists propose that such attempts will always be exceeded by the unpredictable and non-linear nature of life itself. Various complexity theorists suggest that governance can only work by abandoning the reductionist frameworks of liberal modernity and instead unleashing the potential of life to self-organise. The key to understanding how complex life can be governed is the concept of emergence. In between the entropy generated by chaos and the reductionist order of modernity, emergence postulates that order exists through a process of continuous adaptation modelled on evolution through the mechanism of natural selection. This means that order can be generated without an overarching designer or hierarchy, whether we are looking at a colony of ants or a human society.

Complexity and emergence are subject to wide consensus in regards to the natural world, but the entrance of emergence into the cultural realm should be subject to more examination. Questions can be asked about the rather deterministic overtones of the concept and its relation to human agency and intentionality. The workshop represents an opportunity to rethink emergence in the light of its implications for the nature/culture divide.

Manifesto for Living in the Anthropocene

MLA_Cover_Front_WEB 350

edited by Katherine Gibson, Deborah Bird Rose, and Ruth Fincher

The recent 10,000 year history of climatic stability on Earth that enabled the rise of agriculture and domestication, the growth of cities, numerous technological revolutions, and the emergence of modernity is now over. We accept that in the latest phase of this era, modernity is unmaking the stability that enabled its emergence. Over the 21st century severe and numerous weather disasters, scarcity of key resources, major changes in environments, enormous rates of extinction, and other forces that threaten life are set to increase. But we are deeply worried that current responses to these challenges are focused on market-driven solutions and thus have the potential to further endanger our collective commons.

Buy or download this book at:

World Politics at the Edge of Chaos

World Politics at the Edge of Chaos
Reflections on Complexity and Global Life

Emilian Kavalski – Editor

Comprehensive overview of the inroads made by Complexity Thinking approaches and ideas in the study and practice of world politics.
Why are policymakers, scholars, and the general public so surprised when the world turns out to be unpredictable? World Politics at the Edge of Chaos suggests that the study of international politics needs new forms of knowledge to respond to emerging challenges such as the interconnectedness between local and transnational realities; between markets, migration, and social movements; and between pandemics, a looming energy crisis, and climate change. Asserting that Complexity Thinking (CT) provides a much-needed lens for interpreting these challenges, the contributors offer a parallel assessment of the impact of CT to anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric (post-human) International Relations. Using this perspective, the result should be less surprise when confronting the dynamism of a fragile and unpredictable global life.

Emilian Kavalski is Associate Professor of Global Studies at the Institute for Social Justice at Australian Catholic University, North Sydney. He is the author and editor of several books, including Central Asia and the Rise of Normative Powers: Contextualizing the Security Governance of the European Union, China, and India.

Ecological Economics for the Anthropocene: An Emerging Paradigm

Ecological Economics for the Anthropocene provides an urgently needed alternative to the long-dominant neoclassical economic paradigm of the free market, which has focused myopically–even fatally–on the boundless production and consumption of goods and services without heed to environmental consequences. The emerging paradigm for ecological economics championed in this new book recenters the field of economics on the fact of the Earth’s limitations, requiring a total reconfiguration of the goals of the economy, how we understand the fundamentals of human prosperity, and, ultimately, how we assess humanity’s place in the community of beings.

Each essay in this volume contributes to an emerging, revolutionary agenda based on the tenets of ecological economics and advances new conceptions of justice, liberty, and the meaning of an ethical life in the era of the Anthropocene. Essays highlight the need to create alternative signals to balance one-dimensional market-price measurements in judging the relationships between the economy and the Earth’s life-support systems. In a lively exchange, the authors question whether such ideas as “ecosystem health” and the environmental data that support them are robust enough to inform policy. Essays explain what a taking-it-slow or no-growth approach to economics looks like and explore how to generate the cultural and political will to implement this agenda. This collection represents one of the most sophisticated and realistic strategies for neutralizing the threat of our current economic order, envisioning an Earth-embedded society committed to the commonwealth of life and the security and true prosperity of human society.

About the Author

Peter G. Brown is a professor in the School of Environmental Studies at McGill. He is the principal investigator of Economics for the Anthropocene: Re-grounding the Human/Earth Relationship, a partnership among McGill University, the University of Vermont, and York University. He is also a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Club of Rome.

Peter Timmerman is an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Among his wide-ranging research interests are climate change, environmental ethics, nuclear-waste management, and religion and the environment, specifically the Buddhist tradition.

Columbia University Press Logo
  • Pub Date: September 2015
  • ISBN: 9780231173438
  • 408 Pages, 20 b&w illustrations
  • FORMAT: Paperback

Thinking The Twenty-First Century: ideas for the new political economy

The following is a slightly edited precis of a paper to be given by Malcolm McIntosh – Bath Spa University, UK – at the conference Pathways for Change: Towards a Just and Sustainable Economy, Vancouver, October 1-4.

There are five reasons why we need a new political economy for the Anthropocene.

The first relates to sustainable development and its concomitant, globality and Earth awareness, where, for the first time we see and feel the world as one entity in our minds and hearts. The second is concerned with the highest level of evolution – the evolution of knowledge – and in this case the evolution of the balance between what we think we know and what we feel, intuit and discuss. We have come to a critical juncture in which awe and wonder have been marginalised by science, modernity, technology, consumerism and neoliberal economics. Third, the rise of empathy and social, perhaps global, cohesion are a natural progression from the first and second systems changes outlined here – Earth awareness and rebalancing science and awe. I call this nurturing spirit the rise of the feminisation of decision-making and governance as it is a fundamental recognition that the rise and success of the human r ace is due as much to empathy, sociability, sharing, and group work as it is to competition and masculinity. We are in the process of rebalancing the yin and the yang. The way we organise ourselves as humans on planet Earth is undergoing massive disruption just now. Our organisations and institutions are inexorably changing – and this is the fourth systems change. Fifth, evolutionary success and human survival depends on our ability to learn and our ability to adapt through learning. The way we learn, and our approach to education, will determine our chances.

Canadian Society for Ecological Economics (CANSEE) & United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) 2015 Joint Biennial Conference.