Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Simply Complex Law

The Simply Complex Law
By J.B. Ruhl
Post 1: Introduction to the Series
July 20, 2006

I'm thankful to Jim Chen for inviting me to participate in Jurisdynamics. Those of you who know Jim appreciate that few of us can match his depth of knowledge in so broad a field of topics, so I am going to cheat by focusing on just one of the array of subjects under the Jurisdynamics umbrella -- complexity theory.

As some readers may know, I have published a series of law journal articles exploring the application of complexity theory to the legal system (see, e.g., 49 Vanderbilt Law Review 1407 (1996), 91 Georgetown Law Journal 757 (2003), 34 Houston Law Review 933 (1997)). In Jurisdynamics I will happily take on that subject free of the clumsy format and long time lags of law journal publication.

Two central themes motivate what I hope will be a regular series for Jurisdynamics: (1) the subject matter of law (e.g., the economy, the environment, crime) more often than not behaves as a complex adaptive system, and (2) the legal system itself behaves as a complex adaptive system. In this next few posts of the series I summarize what it means for a phenomenon to "behave as a complex adaptive system." Then the next series of posts will summarize the general theory of what it means for the subject matter of law, and the legal system itself, to behave as complex adaptive systems. With that analytical framework in place, the series will turn to examples of complex adaptive behavior in law's domain, raising questions about their causes and consequences and how the legal system can best respond.

Complexity theory, of course, has much more to say about CAS behavior than I can cover here. Good sources of background material on complexity theory are found at The Santa Fe Institute, The University of Michigan's Center for the Study of Complex Systems, The Complexity Society, and The New England Complex Systems Institute. The leading journals are aptly named Complexity (from which I borrow the "Simply Complex" in the title of this series) and Emergence, and ongoing news is available at Complexity Digest.

Next: What is a complex adaptive system?


Anonymous Greg Goelzhauser said...

Scott Page and Ken Kollman are offering a series of lectures at ICPSR beginning next week on complex systems models in the social sciences.

I make note of it to point out the syllabus, which has lots of pointers to readings for the interested.

7/20/2006 10:53 PM  
Blogger J.B. Ruhl said...

Good to hear from you Greg--I hope all is well. Thanks for the link to the conference. In general I think it is fair to say that the social sciences are exploring the use of complex systems theory at full steam. I'm hoping to get law at least in the race.


7/21/2006 8:41 AM  

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