Symposium: Governing Wicked Problems, Introduction
The purpose of this Article is . . . to provide in legal scholarship a concise summary of wicked problems theory from its roots in Rittel and Webber’s article through its evolution in policy science and planning scholarship. Not coincidentally, this sets the stage for introducing the theme of the Vanderbilt Law Review’s 2019 Symposium, Governing Wicked Problems, and the other articles in this Symposium issue.
The Symposium explored three key questions: Where do we go from here with wicked problems theory? Is there anything to be learned about governing wicked problems from governance theories that have gained traction since Rittel and Webber’s article, such as resilience theory and adaptive governance theory? What insights are there for wicked problems in the twenty-first century, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, evolving technologies, and lack of affordable urban housing, which all seem to be rapidly increasing in their “wickedness”?
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Whether called “wicked” or not, there is a growing sense that the social problems of our future are rapidly growing more complex. Reaching global scales, they are increasingly fragile to cascade failure. Intertwined in vast social-ecological-technological systems, they seem out of control. This Symposium issue was convened with the clear understanding that new ways of thinking about social problems and their governance are needed now more than ever.
J.B. Ruhl and James Salzman