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.



"A social system composed of human beings and their artifacts" (M. BUNGE, 1993, p.212).

M. BUNGE distinguishes among human social systems:

"1. Natural or spontaneous if and only if it is self -organized (i.e. if it emerges spontaneously by reproduction, accretion or self-assembly)". BUNGE's examples are: "Families, street-corner gangs, and bands of hominids".

"2. Artificial or formal, or an organization if and only if it is other-organized, i.e. set up and maintained according to explicit plans and rules". BUNGE's examples: "Schools, churches, business firms, and government departments are artificial systems" (Ibid).

E. JANTSCH and C. WADDINGTON considered however that: "The evolutionary paradigm is still almost totally neglected by a social science which finds its purpose in reducing the human world to the equilibrium perfection, structural unambiguity and permanence, hierarchical control, and predictability of machine-like structures" (1976, p.2).

G. VICKERS also insists on the dynamical nature of the human social system and describe it as: "… a set of ongoing relations between persons and organizations, governed by mutual expectations which are usually embodied in roles. It is of course a very complex pattern. Each of us forms part of several subsystems and each of these is incorporated in varying degrees in others…

"… we distinguish something that we regard as a continuing entity but only to the extent and in the field in which it maintains, through time two sets of relationships which are themselves intimately linked – the internal ones which relates its members to each other and the external one which links it, as a whole, to its surround. The entity is in fact a pattern of relationships, subject to change, but recognizably extend in time" (1967, p.59).

Such a description seems to fit however any social system, be it a trade-union, a beehive or even possibly, up to a point an ecosystem or a brain.

In a closely related sense, T.R. YOUNG and G. SWARTZMAN observe that "… all social systems depend upon information flow in order to survive as thermodynamical entities" (1974, p.259).

Organizationally closed values subsystems are the most important sources of such information flows in socio-cultural or socio-historic systems. Information flows also seem to exist in insect societies, albeit in different forms.

In the restricted sense of human systems, R.L. ACKOFF and F.E. EMERY propose the following definition: "A system whose elements are purposeful individuals" (1972, p.215).


  • 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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