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Complexity Science and Knowledge-Creation in International Relations Theory

This article demonstrates how Lakatos built his systems of justificationism and falsificationism upon the foundation of Curry's formalist mathematics. Its fundamental result establishes the logical status of complexity science, as distinct from and superseding those existing systems of proof and refutation commonly acknowledged in social science methodology in particular and scientific epistemology in general. It establishes that this result, concerning the logico-mathematical status of complexity-based scientific reasoning, is not restricted either to the field of international relations theory in particular or to the social sciences in general. The article begins by setting out the significance of complexity science for international relations theory by explaining its epistemological and ontological significance for the level of analysis, scope of analysis, and scale of analysis. It then explains how these points demolish Lakatos's methodology of research programs as an epistemology for scientific progress. In particular, it dissects his construct of the "problemshift" for developments not only within a single research program but also for shifts from one research program to another. For this purpose, it presents a detailed example of theoretical development drawn from applied international relations theory. The example analyzes the succession of Western theories of the domestic politics of Soviet foreign policy making during the first half of the Cold War. The article analyzes the epistemology of scientific progress inherent in complexity science, as illustrated in that example. It describes this as "complex justificationism," sets it within a "complex scientific-realist" ontology, and sets out, in complexity science terms, several key issues with which international relations theory has begun to grapple at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It argues how complexity science provides a basis for understanding the interrelatedness of these issues and treating them comprehensively. It underlines that the epistemological undergirding of that argument is valid across fields, disciplines and universes of inquiry. At present, the article is available for download in PDF (284KB) only. [PDF]
Suggested citation for this webpage:
Robert M. Cutler, "Complexity Science and Knowledge-Creation in International Relations Theory[: Abstract]," in Institutional and Infrastructural Resources, in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (Oxford: Eolss Publishers for UNESCO, 2002), <http://www.eolss.net>, available at <http://www.robertcutler.org/en02eolx.htm>, accessed 23 February 2018.

Dr. Robert M. Cutlerwebsiteemail ] was educated at MIT and The University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in Political Science, and has specialized and consulted in the international affairs of Europe, Russia, and Eurasia since the late 1970s. He has held research and teaching positions at major universities in the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Russia, and contributed to leading policy reviews and academic journals as well as the print and electronic mass media in three languages.

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