International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.



Most social order theories of the 20th century are highly critical of all kind of social orders, past or present. However, viewed from a systemic angle, they seem generally weak in their deeper understanding of social order in general and of its basic nature.

The Frankfurt School theories, for example, including HABERMAS one, has marxists roots. Of course, MARX social order theory was a very original approach, as well as a socially very "engaged" one. Marx description was in some sense implicitly systemic, offering an explanation of the structures and functions that made the 19 Century capitalist society coherent and self-reproductive. But this was lost in the massive noise of subsequent ideological controversies and totalitarian power abuse.

In fact, social coordination, coherence and dynamic stability can be obtained only through specific devices securing organized and non-contradictory relationships among elements, subsystems and the global entity they constitute. A good general description of social organization at any level of complexity was given by J.G. MILLER in his taxonomy of living systems.

In particular, many distinct regulations are necessary to harmonize elements into subsystems (i.e. individuals into groups) and subsystems into the globally organized social entity.

Moreover, as regulations tend to order themselves into a pyramidal scaffolding at distinct levels, they are easily accaparated by the regulators themselves (just mere individuals exerting a specific function). In this way, regulations become controls and the controllers frequently turn self-perpetuating and reproducing, as well as oppressive.

Oppression is in fact the confiscation by controllers of means in excess of those needed to maintain coherence and dynamic stability. This devious process is nothing new in history as they existed in practically all past human organizations, specially political ones (Roman, Chinese, Inca, Aztec and in the Moslem World, as described by ibn KHALDOUN). In modern democracies, power becomes frequently appropriated by self-appointed "elites" or by a corrupt political establishment.

The final problem- in systemic terms- is resumed by the famous saying: "Who will control the controllers?". It derives in trying to find out some better way to obtain and maintain social coherence. A possible solution (in theory) would be universal personal understanding of the fundamental conditions of social order, its acceptance and the practice of universal personal responsability. But can this antidote to oppression and anarchy become a practical proposal?

Action theory; Emancipatory systems approach; Herd effects; Parasitism; Right and responsabilities (Bill of); Social entropy; Social systems; Theory and Design; Sociality; Society order parameters; Sociobiology; Stigmergy; Swarm intelligence


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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