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.



The process of self-organization and emergence of societies.

Such a process takes place through growing interactions between elements hitherto independent. Through general evolution, sociogenesis seems to have been a process of recurrent emergence by association at successive and growing levels of complexity of elements and groups of elements: complex molecules, cells, organisms, societies of organisms.

According to B. CORBARA and A. DROGOUL, in insect societies "… the genesis of collective patterns and complex collective decisions may result from quite simple individual mechanisms, based on reciprocally competing positive feedbacks" (1993, p.835).

These authors developed a model ("COLONY") of sociogenesis in an anthill according to which:

- Each individual is dominated by a global and permanent behavioral algorithm giving it at any time the possibility to opt for one of three basic individual states needed in the anthill: caring for the brood; foraging or being inactive;

- The activity of each ant is a function of the demand for each specific task;

- The level of demand for each task is a result of the global activity at each moment.

This should be compared with P.P. GRASSÉ's concept of stigmergy.

C. DELAYE and B. CORBARA describe as follows the mechanisms of sociogenesis: "The transition from autonomous elements to integrated ones may result from two basic mechanisms: the first, that allows separated elements to gather while conserving their own closure, is aggregation; the second, which introduces a dissymmetry among the participating elements, is incorporation" (1993, p.843).

This viewpoint converges with V. CSANYI's view about the autogenesis of systems as a result of the reciprocal effects of basic interrelations rules.

Until quite recently, sociogenesis has been a spontaneous and automatic process.

It is quite more general than the shaping of human groups. In some sense, even organized groups of cells, or neurons seem to be self-generated societies. Colonial vegetals, animal groups and even biotopes can be somehow considered as societies.

Many systemic and cybernetic models have some validity for the study of sociogenesis: Social groups are regulated (or even controlled, in the case of human societies), they are generally hierarchical, they offer specific modes of growth (stigmergy and dissipative structuration for example), their behavior does not allow total predictability and is even possibly chaotic, etc…

All these models offer new proposals to sociology.

As stated by E. JANTSCH, sociogenesis "is increasingly becoming a matter of human design too, and bring culture into play" (1976, p.54).

This is surely a reason to try to use systemic and cybernetic models, but altogether a reason to be very careful in order to avoid unfounded analogies.

Another interesting comment by JANTSCH is that, in human societies, sociogenesis becomes "… the result of overlapping functional conscious, and superconscious modes of learning" (Ibid., p.56).

Remains to be seen if we can become conscious of… superconscious learning.


  • 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]

We thank the following partners for making the open access of this volume possible: