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A New Systems Thinking: Implications of the Sciences of Complexity for Public Policy and Administration

PAQ, Vol. 29 No. 3, (2005)

This paper discusses the implications of the sciences of
complexity for public policy and administration. It is argued that the
sciences of complexity have implications for our thinking in mainly
three areas. First, they revise our conceptions of systems, causal
relations, and determinism and depict a picture of mostly
indeterministic reality composed of open systems. Second, they offer an
“endophysical” and phenomenological view of system – observer
relations. Third, although they are heavily quantitative, they illustrate
the importance of qualitative interpretations in quantitative analyses and
thus bridge the chasm between quantitative and qualitative
methodologies. The insights of the sciences of complexity can help us
improve our understanding of the complexities of public policy and
administrative processes.

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