The term ‘systems theory’ is used to characterize a set of disparate yet related approaches to fields as varied as information theory, cybernetics, biology, sociology, history, literature, and philosophy. What unites each of these traditions of systems theory is a shared focus on general features of systems and their fundamental importance for diverse areas of life. Yet there are considerable differences among these traditions, and each tradition has developed its own methodologies, journals, and forms of anaylsis. This book explores this terrain and provides an overview of and guide to the traditions of systems theory in their considerable variety.

The book draws attention to the traditions of systems theory in their historical development, especially as related to the humanities and social sciences, and shows how from these traditions various contemporary developments have ensued. It provides a guide for strains of thought that are key to understanding 20th century intellectual life in many areas.

part I|193 pages

Early Developments and Their Continued Repercussions

chapter 3|33 pages


Thinking Through the Technology

chapter 4|6 pages

Expanding the Self-Referential Paradox

The Macy Conferences and the Second Wave of Cybernetic Thinking

chapter 5|53 pages

The Hermeneutical System of General Systemology

Bertalanffian and Other Early Contributions to Its Foundations and Development

chapter 6|21 pages

The Ethics of Epistemology 1

The Work of the Constructivist and Cyberneticist Heinz Von Foerster, from the Vienna Circle to the Cybernetic Circle 2

chapter 7|21 pages

Maturana and Varela

From Autopoiesis to Systems Applications

chapter 8|15 pages

Eugene Odum and the Homeostatic Ecosystem

The Resilience of an Idea

part II|58 pages

Systems Thinking in Sociology

chapter II|5 pages

Introduction to Part II

Systems Thinking in Sociology

chapter 9|17 pages

Talcott Parsons

A Sociological Theory of Action Systems

chapter 10|23 pages


Three Key Concepts, System, Meaning, Autopoiesis

chapter 11|11 pages

Systems Historicized

Wallerstein's World-Systems Analysis

part |110 pages

III Further Contemporary Developments

chapter |6 pages

Introduction to Part III

Further Contemporary Developments

chapter 15|17 pages


The Interplay of Cosmos, Complexity, and Culture

chapter 17|18 pages

Systems, Tools, and Bateson's Cybernetics

A Joint Metalogue