Complexity Science and World Affairs

SUNY Press
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Applies complexity science to the study of
international politics.

Why did some countries transition peacefully
from communist rule to political freedom and market economies, while others did
not? Why did the United States enjoy a brief moment as the sole remaining
superpower, and then lose power and influence across the board? What are the
prospects for China, the main challenger to American hegemony? In Complexity
Science and World Affairs
, Walter C. Clemens Jr. demonstrates how the basic
concepts of complexity science can broaden and deepen the insights gained by
other approaches to the study of world affairs. He argues that societal
fitness—the ability of a social system to cope with complex challenges and
opportunities—hinges heavily on the values and way of life of each society, and
serves to explain why some societies gain and others lose. Applying theory to
several rich case studies, including political developments across post–Soviet
Eurasia and the United States, Clemens shows that complexity science offers a
powerful set of tools for advancing the study of international relations,
comparative government, and, more broadly, the social sciences.

has written an outstanding book—the culmination of a half‑century’s experience
in and analysis of world affairs … [It is] bound to interest not only political
and other social scientists but all thoughtful persons concerned with
understanding and perhaps improving the human condition.” — from the Foreword by
Stuart A. Kauffman

“This breakthrough book provides a new, promising
general paradigm exploring and explaining the complexity of world politics. For
scholars and analysts pushing the boundaries of our field, this is a must-read
volume.” — Jacek Kugler, Claremont Graduate University

“Complexity can be
overwhelming and complexity science can be daunting, and, yet, in Walter
Clemens’s skilled hands both become accessible, understandable, and useful tools
for both scholars and practitioners. Once again, Clemens has shown that
sophisticated academic theorizing only benefits from clarity, elegance, and wit.
The book is ideal for graduate and undergraduate students as a supplementary
text in international relations or comparative politics.” — Alexander Motyl,
Rutgers University–Newark

“Clemens offers a fresh, even startling,
paradigm and process for analyzing the seemingly unpredictable relations within
and among human societies. With impressive clarity he proposes that ‘the
capacity to cope with complexity’ has become a key determinant of success in our
intricately interrelated world. Careful study of this capacity in specific
contexts can lead to revealing analyses in comparative politics and
international relations. A provocative and stimulating treatise!” — S. Frederick
Starr, Johns Hopkins University

“Walt Clemens’s provocative new book can
be appreciated at several levels: as an analytical framework in international
relations—complexity science—that offers a compelling alternative to realism and
neoliberalism; as an incisive critique of the ‘fitness’ of the supposedly most
developed societies to deal with our complex world; and as a humanistic
value-set that provides better standards for assessing governments than do GDP,
trade levels, or military spending. Clemens skillfully integrates theory and
practice to explore US ‘hyperpower,’ the two Koreas, China, and other states
from new angles, and with consistent objectivity. IR specialists should find
this book exciting, while IR and international studies students will be
challenged by the new paradigm it presents.” — Mel Gurtov, Portland State

“Clemens proposes a powerful new way of looking at
international relations and politics, and offers a productive method for
assessing the fitness of societies in the early twenty-first century.” — Guntis
Šmidchens, University of Washington, Seattle

“You don’t have to be a
political scientist to wonder why some states succeed and others do not, why
some societies flourish while others suffer stagnation and conflict. Employing
the relatively new tool of complexity science, Walter Clemens evaluates the
‘fitness’ of states and societies, i.e. their ability to cope with complex
challenges and opportunities. He does so in a way that is erudite—how many
studies quote Walt Whitman and Karl Marx in the same chapter?—yet clear and
accessible. Clemens challenges both existing political science paradigms and
policy perspectives. This is a stimulating, rich volume that can be read and
re-read with profit and appreciation for its breadth and depth and most of all
for its insistence that we see the world, and the states in it, in all their
complexity.” — Ronald H. Linden, University of Pittsburgh

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About the author

Walter C. Clemens Jr. is an Associate at the Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Boston University. He is the author of many books, including Getting to Yes in Korea; Dynamics of International Relations, Second Edition: Conflict and Mutual Gain in an Era of Global Interdependence; and The Baltic Transformed: Complexity Theory and European Security.
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Additional Information

SUNY Press
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Published on
Dec 1, 2013
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History / Europe / Former Soviet Republics
Political Science / International Relations / General
Social Science / Methodology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Why isn't the Baltic region like the Balkans? Why have the Baltic republics not experienced ethnic cleansing, border wars, authoritarian rule, and social chaos? Instead, peace, democracy, and market economies have taken root since the fall of communism. Walter C. Clemens, Jr. here uses complexity theory, which analyzes the role of self-organization in complex adaptive systems, to explain the 'Baltic miracle.' He argues that the theory is a vital tool for understanding the remarkable strides made by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since 1991 in coping with the transition to partnership with the new Europe. The Baltic peoples have adapted well to the demands of democracy, a market economy, and a constructive role in world affairs. The achievements of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the past decade are the more amazing when considered against the hundreds of years they were dominated by Teutonic knights, Hanseatic merchants, Sweden, Russia, and the USSR. Clemens uses this history as a springboard to analyze how Balts self-organize today to meet the challenges of transition. One of the first books to apply complexity theory to a major sphere of world politics, The Baltic Transformed will provoke constructive debate with its ambitious and well-grounded analysis of not only Baltic developments but European security more generally. Despite its theoretical foundation, the book is written in a clear and accessible style that will make it invaluable for courses on comparative politics, political development, international relations, security, or transition studies.
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