Institutional complexity is complexity with an adjective


  • Marielle Papin McGill University



institutional complexity, International Relations, complexity science, conceptualisation


A review of the studies on institutional complexity reveals that the many definitions of institutional complexity and related concepts share similarities with the understanding of complexity and complex systems of complexity science. Yet few publications on institutional complexity engage explicitly with complexity science. Most observers still confuse complicated and complex systems, for instance. Furthermore, the variety of definitions may create disarray regarding what institutional complexity and its related concepts are and what they imply. Highlighting the similarities between institutional complexity and complexity science in global governance, this think piece offers a conceptual and operational definition of institutional complexity using a complexity science lens. It highlights the attributes and properties of institutional complexity. It also presents the benefits of such an approach. Besides offering advantages in terms of concept clarification, this approach aims to engage theoretically, epistemologically, and methodologically with the complexity of global governance, as well as propose a way to answer remaining questions on this crucial topic.