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.



"An interdisciplinary field of research that deals with systems composed of many subsystems" (H. HAKEN, 1993, p.1015).

In a more colloquial language, synergetics investigates "the ways things work together".

H. HAKEN explains: "By their interactions with each other, these subsystems may produce spatial, temporal or functional structures via self-organization. Synergetics seeks for general principles underlying these processes, where it focusses its attention on those situations where self-organization sets in, i.e. where new qualitative features of a complex system emerge. Basic concepts… are stability and instability, order parameters, the slaving principle, critical fluctuations, formation of spatial or temporal patterns, chaotic states. The fields these methods have been applied to comprise physics, chemistry, biology, computer sciences, sociology, economy, physiology, and psychology" (Ibid).

HAKEN distinguishes three different methods used by synergetics, depending on the kind of tasks:

"a) The microscopic approach. In it is assumed that the individual variables of the subsystems and the laws for their temporal evolution are known. Then, close to instability pOints, when new patterns emerge, the theory shows that the dynamics of the whole system is governed by a few variables, the so-called order parameters, which enslave the subsystems. This approach is also valid in the mesoscopic case, e.g. in fluid motion, where again the basic equations are known though not for the molecules explicitly, but for the volume elements.

"b) The macroscopic approach based on the maximum information (entropy) principle. In this approach it becomes possible to determine the distribution function of a system farfrom- equilibrium by means of special moments, or the determination of Fokker-Planck equation, starting from specific correlation functions.

"c) The phenomenological approach. If the microscopic of meso-dynamic laws are not known, one may nevertheless try to describe a system by means of adequate macroscopic quantities, namely the order parameters" (Ibid, p.1016).

The study of processes like autogenesis, self-catalysis, self-organization and autopoiesis is central in synergetics.

In a recent paper Elena KNYAZEVA (Russian Academy of Sciences) argues that "Synergetics is a mental scheme or a heuristic approach to exploring the complex behavior of systems, rather than a universal key to solving concrete scientific problems" (2003, p. 53)

She adds: "Synergetics does not invent speculatively general evolutionary laws, it discovers them and put boundary conditions on their application. To use synergetic models is likely to get into the inner mechanisms of evolution and self organization of complexity in nature"(p. 54)

Synergetics studies are led at the Russian Academy of Sciences within the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics (Prof. S.P. KURDYUMOV) and the Institute of Mathematical Modelling (Prof.A.A. SAMERSKII)

E. Knyazeva signals the following developments in synergetics that take place at the Academy:

1- the investigation of mechanisms of localization of processes and the formation of structures in open nonlinear media

2- the idea of discrete spectra of dissipative structures-attractors in open nonlinear media

3- investigation of very fast developping processes and their self-strengthening in open nonlinear-media (blow-up regimes)

4- studies in the principles of integration and construction of complex structures, including the exploration of ways of co-evolution

5- the principles of non-linear management.

The author also connects PRIGOGINE's works with synergetics, as well as the basic model of self-organized criticality (the sandpile model) (Ibid)

The transdisciplinary character of synergetics is becoming evermore evident.


  • 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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