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.



System fields theory is proposed by K.DE GREENE for the study of world society within its natural environment. He enounces however very general laws that makes it a real systemic theory, somehow reminiscent of d'ARCY W. THOMPSON 's and LAVILLE's ideas about fields.

The laws enounced by DE GREENE are as follows:

"First, system fields display different equilibrium- related behaviors. Simplest is equilibrium and disequilibrium, a displacement from equilibrium that can be restored by neglative feedback processes… A more complex example is homeostasis. Cybernetic theory and design can apply to such systems that can exist or function but cannot change structurally. Under far-from-equilibrium or non-equilibrium conditions, stability may break down as powerful driving forces attempt to restore the system to equilibrium.

"A second law is this: Under nonequilibrium conditions the system may be especially susceptible to fluctuations that under 'normal' conditions would have been damped, and to external fluctuations. For far-from-equilibrium situations, reconfigurational-systems theory replaces cybernetic theory… "

A third law states that systems evolving or driven far- from- equilibrium may increasingly approach critical points or thresholds, or bifurcation points, beyond which lies structural change (e.g., a phase transition). Near the critical point, the susceptibility to fluctuations increases immensely.

"A fourth law states that, as a system-field evolves, the elements become increasingly correlated, eventually encompassing the entire field. In system-fields that are both highly correlated and in the vicinity of a critical point, just one more incremental change may engulf the entire field" (1991, p.64). In such case, as implied by this author, forecasting becomes very difficult.

"A fifth law states that an evolving systemfield may be described as an order parameter. An order parameter characterizes micromacro interrelationships. Interactions at the more micro-level generate a field at a more macro-level, the order parameter, that reciprocally regulates behavior at the micro-level" (Ibid).

This corresponds obviously to HAKEN's slaving principle, in synergetics.

"A sixth law states that, because of the existence of attractors in phase space, the future state of the system may be unknown, or even unknowable, and that the future evolution and behavior of the system may be partly or wholly unpredictable" (Ibid).

DE GREENE adds: "From these loosely stated laws, various principles, valuable in the description and prediction of the evolution of system fields, can be deduced…

"When the system evolves or is driven farfrom- equilibrium, then:

"Principle One. The system may be hypersensitive to small fluctuations that under 'normal' conditions would have been damped, and the frequency of related fluctuations may increase.

"Principle Two. The system may be hypersensitive to external perturbations and fluctuations (noise). And because of critical slowing down, the system may take longer and longer to recover from perturbations and fluctuations.

"Principle Three. Microlevel changes may be indicative of incipient structural change even though the system appears 'normal ' at the macroscopic level" (Ibid, p. 64-65).

These laws and principles have evidently a great pratical value.


  • 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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