Complexity Economics

Economic Approaches:

Key assumptions and aspects:

  • Main concern: Resilient and adaptive systems
  • Economies are made up of: Complex systems of interaction between actors
  • Human beings are: Shaped by heuristics, social comparisons and habits
  • Economies change through: System dynamics, evolution and emergence
  • Favoured methods: Agent-based and computational modelling
  • Typical policy recommendations: Generate desirable (self-reinforcing or balancing) feedback loops and maintain sufficient buffers

Complexity economics is still a very young and developing approach. It has mainly arisen out of the application of methods from mathematics, physics and biology to economic problems. Econophysics, therefore, also overlaps with complexity economics. While only a relatively small number of people engage with complexity economics, its status within the discipline is already quite high, as various prestige scholars and projects focus upon it. Humans are understood as rule followers, as they emulate others and are adaptive to changes in their environment. Not everyone follows the same ‘rules’, and ‘rules’ are not constant over time. Hence, the system is always subject to change.


  • Complexity Economics on Exploring Economics, from 2016. 
  • Rethinking Economics: An Introduction to Pluralist Economics by Liliann Fischer, Joe Hasell, J. Christopher Proctor, David Uwakwe, Zach W. Perkins, & Catriona Watson, from 2018, chapter 7. 
  • Complexity and the Economy by W. Brian Arthur, from 2015.
  • Handbook of research on complexity by J. Barkley Rosser, from 2009. 
  • Econophysics: Background and Applications in Economics, Finance, and Sociophysics by Gheorghe Savoiu, from 2012.
  • Complexity and the History of Economic Thought by David Colander, from 2000.