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.



1. "An adaptive and complex system composed of causally related components" (B. BANATHY, 1973, p. 88).

2."A concrete system composed of animals that a) share an environment and b) act upon other members of the system, either directly or indirectly, in ways that are cooperative in at least one respect" (M. BUNGE, 1993, p.212).

Sociosystem seems to be a perfect synonym for social system. M. BUNGE states: "Every society is a sociosystem but the converse is not true: industrial plants, schools, and clubs are sociosystems but not societies. A society is a self-reliant sociosystem".

Accordingly: "A sociosystem is a society if and only if it is self-sufficient, i.e. does not depend entirely upon other sociosystems" (1979, p.177).

According to BUNGE: "The systemic view of society should not be mistaken for the organismic view, a variant of holism according to which sociosystems are organisms. Surely, the components of sociosystems are alive; besides, sociosystems are born, develop, and become extinct. However, they are not alive: if they were, then all of the peculiar laws of the living, and in the first place those of genetics, would hold for them. But these do not, hence sociosystems are not alive. Nor are they dead: the categories of life and death do not apply to sociosystems" (1979, p.241).

The organismic view is merely a not very satisfactory metaphor.

However B. BANATHY and M. BUNGE's definitions show that the concept of social system may considerably exceed the limits of human systems. In some sense, any complex system is a social system and one of the most important tasks still awaiting systemics is the construction of an integrated theory of sociality or associativity, as it could be called.

Such social systems are any kind of integrated networks of components, with specific constraints commanding their functionality.

The concept of social system was born independently from General Systems. As a result, some misunderstandings pervade its sociological use. They appear neatly in J.W. LAPIERRE who (according to M.N. SARGET) "… differentiates five social systems: the bio-social system, the ecological system, the economic system, the cultural system and the political system" (SARGET, 1993, p.373; LAPIERRE, 1974).

Any social system is necessarily "bio-", i.e. made of living systems (unless we consider atoms or molecules as social systems…). Such bio-social systems are inevitably inserted within an ecosystem, of which they are a subsystem. As to the economic, the cultural and the political systems, they are really subsystems of any (human) social system, forming a complex interacting network (of networks). LAPIERRE's ideas are basically sound and even systemic, but his vocabulary could induce serious confusions.

LUHMANN views social systems as systems of communication, which creates their own unity, structures and elements.

This very general concept obviously applies to:

- social phases in congeries of normally non-connected individuals. An example is Dictyostelium discoideum and another, less constraining is a locusts swarm

- social insects among which communication has a biochemical origin (pheromones) and is absolutely basic for the communal activity (stigmergy)

- human groups and societies, wherein languages of various types are the basis for communication

- social automata, for which parallel distributed processing seems to herald future complex societies of automata

Autopoiesis: about Luhmann's view


  • 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).

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