The Paradigm of Social Complexity:

An Alternative Way of Understanding Societies and their Economies

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.”

    Mahatma Gandhi

This book goes beyond the objective of science popularisation. It presents a relatively detailed explanation of the paradigm of complexity in the context of socioeconomic phenomena and expounds different methodologies to formulate hypotheses that are susceptible to external validation

PCCover:  Alfredo Castañeda (Fuga al amanacer, 2003)

About the book

With the recent developments in computing technologies and the thriving research scene in Complexity Science, economists and other social scientists have become aware of a more flexible and promising alternative for modelling socioeconomic systems; one that, in contrast with neoclassical economics, advocates for the realism of the assumptions, the importance of context and culture, the heterogeneity of agents (individuals or organisations), and the bounded rationality of individuals who behave and learn in multifaceted ways in uncertain environments. The book synthesises an extensive body of work in the field of social complexity and constructs a unifying framework that allows developing concrete applications to important socioeconomic problems. This one-of-a-kind textbook provides a comprehensive panorama for advanced undergraduates and graduate students who want to become familiar with a wide range of issues related to social complexity. It is also a pioneering text that can support professors who wish to learn techniques and produce research in this novel field.


       After reviewing the main concepts, premises and implications of complexity theory, the book frames this vision within the history of economic thought. Then, it articulates a meta-theory in which interdependent agents are embedded in a social context and whose collective and decentralised behaviour generates socio-economic phenomena. Such a framework builds on theories from evolutionary, institutional and behavioural economics, as well as analytical sociology. The book then reviews different computational tools for modelling complex adaptive systems, such as cellular automata, networks, and agent-based models. It elaborates on their analytical advantages in comparison to equation-based models, and how they can be calibrated/estimated and validated with empirical data. Finally, the book advocates for the practical use of these computational tools and makes a case for policy applications and the study of causal mechanisms.

About the author

Gonzalo Castañeda is a Mexican economist who holds a PhD from Cornell University and two BAs from the Mexican Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM). He currently works at the prestigious Centre for the Research and Teaching of Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City and is a member of the National System of Researchers (SNI, level III). He has been a visiting scholar in several universities and research centres in the United States and Europe: George Mason University (Virginia, USA), The Alan Turing Institute (London, UK), Sapienza University of Rome (Italy), International Institute for Applied System Analysis (Austria), University of Salamanca (Spain), and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain). Dr Castañeda has been studying social complexity for more than 15 years. During this time, he has delivered various courses on the topic at graduate and undergraduate levels, leading to the creation of this book. His research has been conducted in different approaches of economic thinking including neoclassical, structural, institutional, and evolutionary.

Praise for the book

“Complexity offers a new and different approach to economics — it frees economics from its overdependence on static equilibria and hyper-rational agents.  Gonzalo Castaneda's textbook is wide-ranging, highly readable, and super-instructive. A must-read for anyone interested in the new economic thinking.”

W. Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute. Author of Complexity and the Economy.


While the mainstream approach in economics is dying, a new paradigm — that of complexity — is replacing it. This encyclopedic book introduces students to the basic tools and offers scholars material to reflect on the relevance and limitations of the approach. It cannot, therefore, be missing from the library of every economist.

— Mauro Gallegati, Professor of Macroeconomics at Marche Polytechnic University, Ancona, Italy.

“Gonzalo Castañeda’s timely volume provides a tour d’horizon of the burgeoning research on applications of the theory of complex dynamic systems in the social sciences. Its 21 chapters cover a variety of recent developments from self-organization in agent-based models and cellular automata to evolutionary processes and network formation. The sheer breadth of the coverage of relevant material is most impressive. All chapters work out the main building blocks and unifying features of different classes of dynamic processes and emphasize their value-added in explaining phenomena that more traditional theories struggle with. The book would provide an excellent reference for a course on complex dynamics for Master or PhD students.”


— Thomas Lux,  Professor of Monetary Economics and International Finance at the University of Kiel, Germany. 


1      Why study other paradigms?

2      Vision and modelling of complexity

3     The dynamics of social phenomena

4      Complexity in economic thought

5     Complexity and emerging properties

6     The self-organisation of complexity

7     Cellular automata

8    Homo Socialis

9    The multifaceted behaviour of human beings

10  Structure and its analytical instrumentation

11  Socioeconomic evolution

12   Agent-based computational models

13   Three examples of agent-based models

14   Computational models of networks

15   Topology and network formation processes

16   The dynamics of social diffusion

17    Learning in contexts of uncertainty

18    Introduction to genetic algorithms

19    Validation and social mechanisms

20   Calibration, verification and replication

21    Empirical applications of social complexity

Table of contents


Do you want to take a look into the book's Preface, in which it is explained the way the book is structured, and who  are the readers that can benefit the most ?

Do you want to take a look into one of the book's chapters and to discover the virtues of using simulations of artificial worlds to illustrate the vision of complexity and carry out experiments?

Are you now ready to acquire your  eBook of 'The Paradigm of Social Complexity' 

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Supplementary  material for teaching/learning 'The Paradigm of Social Complexity'

Software for ABM

by Alfredo Castañeda  (1938-2010)

by   Alfredo Castañeda (1938-2010)

Comments and suggestions

Gallery of Scholars in Social Complexity and Computational Social Sciences

"Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than the exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise."

John Tukey

Website administrator:  Leticia Kladiano

Paul Erdós (1913-1996)

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