The term ‘systems theory’ is used to characterize a set of disparate yet related approaches to fields as varied as information theory, cybernetics, biology, sociology, history, literature, and philosophy. What unites each of these traditions of systems theory is a shared focus on general features of systems and their fundamental importance for diverse areas of life. Yet there are considerable differences among these traditions, and each tradition has developed its own methodologies, journals, and forms of anaylsis. This book explores this terrain and provides an overview of and guide to the traditions of systems theory in their considerable variety.
The book draws attention to the traditions of systems theory in their historical development, especially as related to the humanities and social sciences, and shows how from these traditions various contemporary developments have ensued. It provides a guide for strains of thought that are key to understanding 20th century intellectual life in many areas.
Table of Contents
1. Systems Theory: A Secret History of the 20th Century Darrell P. Arnold Part I: Early Developments and Their Continued Repercussions Introduction 2. The Persistence of Information Theory Philipp Schweighauser 3. Cybernetics: Thinking Through the Technology Ranulph Glanville 4. Expanding the Self-Referential Paradox: The Macy Conferences and the Second Wave of Cybernetic Thinking John Bruni 5. The Hermeneutical System of General Systemology: Bertalanffian and Other Early Contributions to Its Foundations and Development David Pouvreau 6. The Ethics of Epistemology: The Work of the Constructivist and Cybernetician Heinz von Foerster, From the Vienna Circle to the Cybernetic Circle Bernhard Pörksen 7. Maturana and Varela: From Autopoiesis to Systems Applications Bob Mugerauer 8. Eugene Odum and the Homeostatic Ecosystem: the Resilience of an Idea Joel Hagen Part II: Systems Thinking in Sociology Introduction 9. Talcott Parsons: A Sociological Theory of Action Systems Bettina Mahlert 10. Luhmann: Three Key Concepts, System, Meaning, Autopoiesis Walter Reese-Schäfer 11. Systems Historicized: Wallerstein’s World-Systems Analysis W.L. Goldfrank Part III: Further Contemporary Developments Introduction 12. Systems Theories and Literary Studies Andrew McMurry 13. Systems Heuristics and Digital Culture Raphael Sassower and Nimrod Bar-Am 14. A Brief Outline of Evolutionary Cultural Ecology Peter Finke 15. Prigogine: The Interplay of Cosmos, Complexity, and Culture Dorothea Olkowski 16. Systems Theory and Practice in Organizational Change and Development Debora Hammond 17. Systems, Tools, and Bateson’s Cybernetics: A Joint Metalogue Nora Bateson and Phillip Guddemi
Darrell P. Arnold is director of the Institute for World Languages and Cultures and assistant professor of philosophy at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida. He has translated numerous books from German, including C. Mantzavinos’s Naturalistic Hermeneutics and Matthias Vogel’s Media of Reason. He writes on 19th century German philosophy, contemporary social theory, as well as technology and globalization, with a focus on how these diverse areas relate to the environmental problematic. Darrell is editor-in-chief of the Humanities and Technology Review.
"Traditions of Systems Theory: Major Figures and Developments provides a state-of-the-art survey of the increasingly influential and fascinating field of systems theory. It is a highly useful resource for a wide range of disciplines and contributes significantly to bringing together current trends in the sciences and the humanities." – Hans-Georg Moeller, University College Cork, Ireland