A Response to Simplifying Complexity
In a recent issue of Geoforum, Steven Manson (2001)presented a timely review of Complexity Theory in order to orient the unversed reader in a framework of Complexity Theory’s key concepts. Manson begins with an overview of the evolution of research in Complexity Theory, appreciating its antecedents and asking a number of thought provoking questions. This is followed by a discussion that pulls together much of the disjointed literature in establishing a typology of approaches to Complexity Theory, including an examination of their advantages and disadvantages. In meeting the aims of his review of Complexity Theory, Manson has covered a substantial amount of literature, much of which is difficult to commensurate and sometimes even contradictory. He effectively cuts through its often effusive nature, uncovering some of the embedded constructs and recognizing its links to the past and its future potential. However this author considers that Manson’s presentation of complexity did not make clear a number of fundamental concepts in his article. These points are to be taken up here through a discussion of an alternative view in the context of Complexity Theory: the first is a discussion of Manson’s usage of ‘‘types of complexity theory’’, the second involves a re-evaluation of the differences between these ‘‘types’’, and the third addresses the differences between Complexity Theory and Chaos Theory. The second and third points of discussion are common misconceptions (in general and geographic literature) that arise from the assimilation of ideas without careful consideration of their context. This is a common problem resulting from geography’s borrowing tendencies (Agnew and Duncan, 1981). All of these points are essential to the conceptual framework that orients and directs the reader and researcher. An alternative framework is then considered in Section 5.