Other Articles by Deborah

Papers, Editorials, and Presentations

Complexity Science Conflict Analysis of Power and Protest
Sword, L. Deborah, Emergence: Complexity and Organization

and available at

Complexity science, aside from adding considerable jargon, aids in understanding power, powerlessness and empowerment in conflict. Weaker agents, that would traditionally be viewed as powerless in a conflict, use protest and direct action to improve their own fitness, and deform stronger agents’ fitness on their shared landscape. They attempt to drive a conflict system into instability, or unpredictability, or launch a cascade where a new equilibrium may favor their disadvantaged position. The data suggest that networked protest groups, as well as having passion and commitment, are structurally and organizationally well adapted for their fight against the powerful.

Emergence: Complexity & Organization – Special Issue on Chaos, Complexity and Conflict (10.4)
Written/Edited by: Bryan Hanson & L. Deborah Sword, 2008, ISSN 1521-3250 (110 pages), ISCE Publishing
Guest Editorial: Chaos, Complexity and Conflict
Bryan Hanson & L. Deborah Sword

Paper: A Complexity Science View of Conflict (10-16)

Complexity science and conflict theory are two relatively new interdisciplinary fields that have much to learn from and offer each other. One benefit of their cross-fertilization is that data from real life conflicts becomes available for complexity scientists, and new models of conflict dynamics from complexity science become available for conflict practitioners. Challenges to effective cross-fertilization are the extreme jargon, disinclination for knowledge transfer, and few opportunities for practitioners and researchers of either field to meet across each specialty’s boundaries. Another important barrier to cross-fertilization is that espoused theory from complexity science does not yet easily translate into a theory-in-use for conflict practice. I suggest that one possible method for interpreting complexity science concepts for use in real life applications is to import complexity science principles into conflict practitioners’ conflict mental maps.

Links of interest for developing conflict competence