Sustainability and Complexity: A Few Lessons from Modern Systems Thinking

Part of the Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace book series (HSHES, volume 10)


Sustainable development, sustainability and sustainability transition are associated with the growing complexity of sociopolitical systems and ecological systems, and of their interactions. These concepts are becoming even more intricate since in academic considerations and in policy-making the concept of complexity is not precisely defined. The term complexity usually relates to a special class of non-linear mathematical models which are relevant to phenomena described with characteristics measurable in the ratio scale which occur in nature and in social systems. It is also used as analogy and metaphor. The aim of this chapter is to identify and to assess the applications of the concepts deriving from complexity studies in the discourse on sustainability and sustainable development and on related terms—transition to sustainability and management of transition to sustainability. The main hypothesis of the chapter is that a sophisticated language dealing with complexity and applied in the narratives on sustainability and related ideas requires a profounder clarification so as to provide new insights concerning description, explanation of causal links, prediction, normative approach and influence upon societal phenomena.


Complexity sustainable development sustainability transition transition management 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cracow University of EconomicsCracowPoland

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