Policy and the Study of the Future

Given Complexity, Trends or Processes?

by Ronald D. Brunner, Garry D. Brewer

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At this early stage in the scientific study of the future for policy purposes, a number of important methodological choices face social scientists. One important choice concerns the relative utility of forecasting by extrapolating trends or by using process models. The former is the more familiar method, and the latter is considered to be the more promising. After introducing a minimum number of essential concepts in the formal study of political systems by way of presenting an illustrative process model, we explore the effect that complexity has on the analytical tractability of the system. Consequent implications for the scientific study of policy are sketched out as appropriate.

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