Increasing attention is being paid to the application of complex systems theories in the social sciences. Although this trend is less prominent in the field of public administration, some examples of the use of complexity theory in research in this domain can be found. This article discusses three central ideas in complex systems theory that are relevant for public administration research: dynamics, self-organization and coevolution. After briefly introducing each idea, the article traces similar concepts in public administration research. It then contrasts them with each other, and discusses how they can improve our understanding of phenomena in public administration. Finally, the article explores how the manager’s role is perceived in public administration and what insights complexity theory can add to that view.

Complexity theory, co-evolution, dynamics, overview, public administration, public governance, public management, public sector, self organization
Public Management Review: an international journal of research and theory
Department of Public Administration

Klijn, E-H. (2008). Complexity theory and public administration: What's new?. Public Management Review: an international journal of research and theory, 299–317. Retrieved from