Complexity is often invoked to justify the limits of politics in addressing global challenges, as well as the difficulties of the social sciences in accounting for a rapidly evolving social reality. Thinking complexity as an ultimately intractable entity, however, paves the way for many forms of simplification, both in interpreting global processes and in addressing them, with disappointing results at both levels.

Breaking this impasse is urgent, given that the dimensions of interpretation and political action are intertwined as never before, as evidenced by global crises such as climate change or the COVID-19 pandemics.

The seminar will address this crucial junction between complexity, global challenges and social research with the contribution of David Byrne, who has extensively addressed, at all levels (epistemological, theoretical, methodological), the issue of the capacity of the social sciences to confront the growing complexity of the social world, especially as it interfaces with the complexity of the natural world.

The seminar is held on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the death of Giancarlo Quaranta, founding member of Knowledge and Innovation – School of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Research. The working language is English.

David S. Byrne is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Sociology at the Durham University (UK). His research interests include complexity theory, postindustrial social structures, privatisation of welfare systems, inequality and, recently, the social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.