Complex Governance for the Anthropocene


  • Philippe Le Prestre Full Professor in the Department of Political Science of Laval University



The Anthropocene presents formidable governance challenges, not only in terms of the large uncertainties that surround the impact of humans on the biosphere, but also because it is occurring at a time of profound transformations in international politics. This article builds on the recent literature on complex systems and international environmental politics and identifies some of the core elements of thinking about governance in the Anthropocene. After a brief reminder of the characteristics of a complex system and the challenges that this poses to some of the existing doxa, it proceeds with a discussion of key elements of the system, of aspects of its operation, and of the goals that one should pursue in terms of system dynamics. Approaching the governance of the Anthropocene as a complex system allows us to shape much of current research in IR into a coherent whole, as well as identify the contours of a global international governance system of the environment that takes advantage of the dynamics of the system rather than courting failure by attempting to simplify it.


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Academic Paper