The thesis sets out with the observation that the current social science paradigms fail to adequately assess global crises in their totality and therefore fail to understand them.
This is also due to the fact that these crises need to be classified as wicked problems, which constantly change their identity and constitution. Subsequently, attempts at governing those crises (e.g. the Migration Crisis, Coronavirus Crisis, Climate Crisis) fall short as they are based on an insufficient understanding of the crises.
"The main argument of the thesis is that by relying on a processual-relational approach, which conceives of the world as a web of ever-unfolding relations and thereby increases the complexity of the social world, we have a better chance at dealing with wicked problems in the form of global crises. The main difference of this approach to most other social science paradigms is the fact that it places primacy on relations instead of entities and accounts for a dynamic, always changing social reality," said Klasche.
I am, however, careful to suggest this approach as the answer to all questions and stress that it is particularly useful in this situation but almost unserviceable in other situations that require less abstraction."
Benjamin Klasche, School of Governance, Law, and Society, Tallinn University
The thesis sets itself apart from other studies with its interdisciplinary focus that connects relational sociology with public administration and international relations and creates a dialogue with different pieces of knowledge of these disciplines. Based on this, it establishes the match of processual relationalism with the study of wicked problems.
It further moves the theoretical and philosophical debates that relational sociologists have been having to a methodological and even empirical level and will be the foundation of research to come. On a more practical level, it urges policy-makers to stop breaking complex problems into smaller pieces and attempting to solve these without keeping the big picture in mind, and further always assume the failure of policies as the only possible outcome.
However, the swift acceptance of failure is to be viewed positively, as it allows for the dismissal or modification of policies which eventually will help deal with the problem.
Academically the thesis provides nourishment to the 'relational turn' in the social sciences. This turn emerges from the acknowledgment that our societies and their global connectivity created an intensely complex situation that we struggle to theorize about with the current approaches in the social sciences.
Its benefit to society lies in reacting to the fact that global crises will be threatening our societies more and more often. Academics and especially policy-makers need to have new strategies to deal with this new reality which is precisely where this thesis can help.