Societal Systems - Complex or worse?
Journal article, 2014

The basic observation that we explore in this paper is simple but, we argue, rich in consequences: societal systems combine two qualities that are commonly referred to as complexity and complicatedness. We address the problem that societal systems remain recalcitrant despite the development of powerful approaches for dealing with both of these qualities. The root of this problem we identify to be that the combination between complexity and complicatedness is emergent; i.e. fundamentally and irreducibly different from either quality in isolation. This means that neither class of such approaches can be expected to work well on their own. But it also means that the obvious strategy of combining theory for complexity and complicatedness may be much more challenging than envisioned. In short, systems where complexity and complicatedness is mixed ought to be treated as a distinct class of systems. Noting a connection to what has long been called "wicked problems" we hereby outline such a class of systems that we call "wicked systems". We introduce a simple model and heuristic and discuss some implications for theorizing and modeling.

wicked systems


wicked problems





Claes Andersson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Anton Törnberg

University of Gothenburg

Petter Törnberg

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory


0016-3287 (ISSN)

Vol. 63 145-157

Driving Forces

Sustainable development


Basic sciences

Subject Categories

Other Social Sciences



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