A complexity science approach to law and governance

Introduction to a Special Issue by Pierpaolo Vivo, Daniel M. Katz and J. B. Ruhl: “The premise of this Special Issue is that legal systems are complex adaptive systems, and thus complexity science can be usefully applied to improve understanding of how legal systems operate, perform and change over time. The articles that follow take this proposition as a given and act on it using a variety of methods applied to a broad array of legal system attributes and contexts. Yet not too long ago some prominent legal scholars expressed scepticism that this field of study would produce more than broad generalizations, if even that. To orient readers unfamiliar with this field and its history, here we offer a brief background on how using complexity science to study legal systems has advanced from claims of ‘pseudoscience’ status to a widely adopted mainstream method. We then situate and summarize the articles.

The focus of complexity science is complex adaptive systems (CAS), systems ‘in which large networks of components with no central control and simple rules of operation give rise to complex collective behavior, sophisticated information processing and adaptation via learning or evolution’. It is important to distinguish CAS from systems that are merely complicated, such as a combustion engine, or complex but non-adaptive, such as a hurricane. A forest or coastal ecosystem, for example, is a complicated network of diverse physical and biological components, which, under no central rules of control, is highly adaptive over time…(More)”.