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 loose association on worldwide scale of people from different disciplines of science, engineering, philosophy, and other areas, who share a common interest in ideas (concepts, principles, methods, etc…) that are applicable to all systems and that, consequently, transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines" (G. KLIR, 1991, p.19).

KLIR offers a synthetic history of the systems movement in this reference (1991, p.19-39 and p.346-7). P.B. CHECKLAND also develop an interesting evaluation in the same collective work (p.259-68).

The systems movement however, after 40 years, find itself in a serious predicament.

The following harsh critical evaluation of the systems movement by D. H. Mc NEIL is well worth of attention.

"The modern history of the "systems movement" began with the complicated organizational demands during World War II. In subsequent decades, very large governmental, corporate, aerospace, and computer operations engendered systemic developments. One might expect the theoretical foundations of "systems thinking" to have progressed apace, but such has not been the case. If anything, there is less relevance and less credibility in the systems professions today than at any time since von BERTALANFFY set forth the goal of a "General Systems Theory". University curricula in systems are now being dismantled or merged with other subjects. Professional societies concerned with the subject matter of systems are weak and philosophically adrift.

"The "systems movement" has failed and its offshoots in the "environmental movement" will fail also unless some changes are made. After nearly half a century of fitful efforts, there is no comprehensive theory of systems, no standard textbook of fundamentals and no definitive workbook of techniques and applications. Attempts to produce politically correct systems studies within the conventional Science of engineering curricula have only served further to emasculate the contribution that systemological discourse would make on its own merits.

"The "systems movement" has been its own worst ennemy. It has utterly failed to define itself and its subject matter and has not established itself as a discipline. On the one hand, this invites charlatans to preempt its concepts and misrepresent them. On the other hand, it prompts its professionals to seek respectability within the purview of conventional sciences…

"There will be a great deal of consolidation and clarification to do" (1992, p.1077-8)

Unfortunately, there is much truth in Mc NEIL'S indictment, even if it will probably forever be difficult – and inappropriate – to transform systems thinking or systems approach into a "discipline". This would put it nicely in a small and segregated intellectual niche, while it really should become the basic ground for anybody confronted with complex situations of any kind, anywhere at any time, i.e., all of us! This systems literacy general need is for sure a very difficult problem of educative design (F. CROWELL, 1992, p.964-975).

This encyclopedia tries to offer general information on systems views and to promote semantic clarification. It may possibly also be helpful to convey a clearer view of the "agglutinating" and connective global character of systemics, in the hope that this could lead to a better general and ordered formulation of "systems thinking ".

However, much more fundamental material should be produced, and practical ways to perfect them and transmit them should be invented.

It should also be noted that very interesting and useful synthetic work has been done outside the anglo-saxon world, specially in France (J.L.LE MOIGNE, E. MORIN) and in Germany (G. KLAUS). Good systemists should cultivate a worldly connected perspective!

… And should urgently put it to practical uses.


  • 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: