Complexity and uncertainty in late-stage technocracy: The case of urban sustainability

Kris Hartley*, Ola G. El-Taliawi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


As sites of economic, political, and social convergence, cities absorb the earliest effects of global crises. These dynamics are observable also in environmental crises and resilience - longer-running challenges to legacy models of urban governance. Shifting epistemic and practical contexts invite scholarship to more thoroughly examine the dynamics of urbanpolicy with regard to the 'localisation' of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the contribution of city governments to global environmental policy. This chapter examines urban sustainability as an ontologically complex or 'wicked' policy problem, a framing concept with a history in the urban planning and policy literatures but deserving fresh revisitation. The argument is that a 'complexity science' approach that avoids narrative capture is needed to better understand global environmental crisis and its manifestation in cities. This approach seeks to challenge the predominance of linear, atomistic, and reductionist perspectives that remain embedded in policy thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Policy's Role in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals
PublisherIGI Global
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781668489048
ISBN (Print)9781668489031
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2023


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