The Paradigm of Social Complexity: An Alternative Way of Understanding Societies and their Economies by Gonzalo Castañeda

With the recent developments in computing technologies and the thriving research scene in Complexity Science, economists and other social scientists have become aware of a more flexible and promising alternative for modelling socioeconomic systems; one that, in contrast with neoclassical economics, advocates for the realism of the assumptions, the importance of context and culture, the heterogeneity of agents (individuals or organisations), and the bounded rationality of individuals who behave and learn in multifaceted ways in uncertain environments. The book synthesises an extensive body of work in the field of social complexity and constructs a unifying framework that allows developing concrete applications to important socioeconomic problems. This one-of-a-kind textbook provides a comprehensive panorama for advanced undergraduates and graduate students who want to become familiar with a wide range of issues related to social complexity. It is also a pioneering text that can support professors who wish to learn techniques and produce research in this novel field.

After reviewing the main concepts, premises and implications of complexity theory, the book frames this vision within the history of economic thought. Then, it articulates a meta-theory in which interdependent agents are embedded in a social context and whose collective and decentralised behaviour generates socio-economic phenomena. Such a framework builds on theories from evolutionary, institutional and behavioural economics, as well as analytical sociology. The book then reviews different computational tools for modelling complex adaptive systems, such as cellular automata, networks, and agent-based models. It elaborates on their analytical advantages in comparison to equation-based models, and how they can be calibrated/estimated and validated with empirical data. Finally, the book advocates for the practical use of these computational tools and makes a case for policy applications and the study of causal mechanisms.