Global Governance in Complex Times: Exploring New Concepts and Theories on Institutional Complexity


  • Fariborz Zelli Lund University
  • Lasse Gerrits Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Ina Möller Wageningen University



Institutional complexity, complexity theory, global governance, interdisciplinarity, research agenda


This article, and the special issue it introduces, seek to contribute to the emerging and much-needed dialogue between the study of global governance and the study of social complexity. We hold that, while there is wide acceptance that global governance is becoming increasingly complex, studying this complexity still faces significant challenges in terms of concepts, theory, and methodology.
The article outlines why that dialogue is needed, and how the complexity sciences can help us address some of these challenges. It then introduces key questions central to such an integrated research programme, for instance: under what conditions can a global governance system be regarded as complex? Which methods can help us recognize and assess patterns of stability, iteration, and change in global governance? How can a theory-driven analysis take into account that complexity may influence spaces for political agency, i.e. that it may alter key aspects of legitimacy, accountability, transparency, technocracy, and power and ultimately the strategical options of certain actors? Finally, the article looks ahead to the special issue and summarizes how the authors contribute crucial conceptual, theoretical, and methodical ideas for addressing these and other questions.

Author Biography

Fariborz Zelli, Lund University

Fariborz Zelli is associate professor at the Department of Political Science at Lund University.