abstracts


1.1 Kenneth D. Bailey:
"Social Entropy Theory and Social Autopoiesis: Toward an Integration"


While entropy theory and autopoietic theory have been familiar approaches within general systems theory for years, they were, until recently, generally seen as applications within physical science or biology, with little or no application to social science. Two rather recent developments have rectified this situation. These have been the application of both entropy theory (Bailey's Social Entropy Theory) and autopoietic theory (Luhmann's social autopoiesis) to sociocybernetics. However, to date there has been no corresponding integration of these two important approaches within sociocybernetics (or even in general systems theory, for that matter). The purpose of this paper is to rectify this omission by beginning the integration of these two important social-systems approaches. One reason that these approaches may seem difficult to integrate is that they are both rather difficult to operationalize within a social context. However, they also both have clear points of congruence in their "entropy-fighting" properties, primarily boundary delimitation operations and relations with their environments. These latter properties are exploited in developing the current attempt at synthesis.


Kenneth D. Bailey, Department of Sociology, U.C.L.A., 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA. E-mail: kbailey@soc.ucla.edu




1.2 Takatoshi Imada:
"The Scope of Self-Organization Theory in Sociology: Toward the Age of Anti-Control Systems"


Modern society is characterized as penetrating the ideas of function primacy into various areas of social life. In the 1980's, however, skepticism about modernity increased markedly and fluctuation of modernity was resulting. I will discuss this situation from the viewpoint ofself-organization system which represents the system's feature that changes its structure by itself while interacting with the environment.

The essencial point of self-organization consists in fluctuation and self-reference. The sociological concept equivalent to fluctuation is differing from the established functional differentiation. Also, self-reference is corresponding to self-reflexion. Therefore, it is said that the self-organization theory of society lies in formulizing the intervention to social structure by action agents through differing and self-reflexion. The common feature of self-organization paradigm is that fluctuation is internally reinforced by self-referential (autocatalytic) mechanism. For example, dissipative structure happens when a system breaks the equilibrium state widely by amplification of fluctuations. It is internal reinforcement that shifts the system to the nonequilibrium state.

This characteristic leads the claims to ask how anti-control systems can be built. I will discuss this from the necessity of constructing theory of support system. It is true that control can be a strong weapon when we attain the predetermined goal efficiently, but inversely can be fetters to explore the goals and challenge new possibilities.

The project of modernization has institutionalized a control system. Industrial society has been maintaining close relationship with control as it is otherwise called managerially controlled society. However, when forecasting future of industrial society, control system will perhaps finish its historical role. Of course, nobody can say that it will be abolished, but at least it will retreat from the main stage.


Takatoshi Imada, Ctr. for Humanities & Social Sciences, Tokyo Inst. of Technology, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152, Japan. Email: imada@hss.titech.ac.jp



1.3 Michael Paetau:
"'Virtual Enterprises': Networks or Social Systems?"


In an empirical research-project (1996-1999) about the possibilities of virtualized sociality we are observing the communication of a so-called "Virtual Enterprise". Our main topic is the question about the autopoiesis of this kind of organization. Is a virtual enterprise only a special form of social networks, or is it an organizational social system with own identity, with organizational memory and with a self-description, which allow to identify its difference of system and environment.

Virtual Organizations are not primarily a result of technological development. But due to the fact, that their identity does no longer depend on a common location, they are highly dependent on an adequate technical information- and communication infrastructure. Our analytical goal is to find out, if Virtual Organizations can really be called prototypes for the effort of enterprises to work successfully in the context of the globalization of the world market and the world society. In a case study with a systems-theoretical approach we want to understand the complexity and dynamics of a Virtual Enterprise, distributed all over in Germany as a network in different sense: as a network of individuals, a network of different branches (in five German regions), a network of autonomous projects and a network of collaborating companies. Especially we ask for the inherent social and organizational forces of a virtual-enterprise which keep it together or make it fall apart.

The majority of the literature stresses that virtual enterprises practice a very active border-management to proceed to the inclusion and exclusion of members, and due to this fact virtual enterprises cannot build up their own systems identity. In the literature of management science and sociology of organizations there are no characteristic differences between network organizations and virtual enterprises. Our first results in the case study contradict this hypothesis.


Michael Paetau (1999), German National Center for Information Technology (GMD), FIT.KI, Research Focus Culture - Media -Technology, Schloss Birlinghoven, D-53754 Sankt Augustin, Germany. Email: paetau@gmd.de




1.4 Michael Rempel:
"On the Interpenetration of Social Systems: Toward a Critical Reconstruction of Parsons and Luhmann"


Social systems theories typically divide societies into major subsystems, with each possessing distinct components and performing a distinct social function (e.g., political, economic, legal, or socialization). However, existing systems theories critically fail to provide a clear concept of interpenetration. Such a concept could highlight the tremendous extent to which different social processes conjoin and intermix, even if they seem historically rooted in separate subsystems. In developing a contemporary approach to interpenetration, I reconstruct the systems theories of Parsons and Luhmann. Parsons defines social systems to be composed of people and their actions, while Luhmann defines social systems to be composed of strictly conceptual communications: not actual communications that people regularly engage in but "probable" ones, for which effective linguistic and cognitive resources exist.

I posit that Parsons and Luhmann each highlight different and complementary types of social systems and subsystems. Accordingly, different forms of interpenetration exist as well. Tight, interpenetrating influence relations can arise among the occupants of different action subsystems or formal institutions (e.g., political, economic, or scientific). Also, interpenetration can arise among the cognitively selective languages or ways of thinking of different communication subsystems. Here, the cognitive biases of the interpenetrating subsystems jointly structure the direction of given deliberations and decision-making processes. The question of which subsystems actually maintain influence in a given context, and which do not, can further generate consequential effects of social power and exclusion. I conclude that by placing interpenetration at the heart of social systems theory, and by thus attending to the great dynamism and openness to selective, intersecting influences of today's "subsystems," from politics to law to private families, the theory comes alive as a uniquely illuminating, original, and timely approach to late modernity.


Michael Rempel, 1050 North Honore Street, #1F, Chicago, IL 60622, USA. Email: stdmire@icarus.spc.uchicago.edu



1.5 Raf Vanderstraeten:
"Sociocybernetics, socialization, education"


The concept of 'socialization' is used to analyse relationships between individual and society. This concept - and that of education as well - indicates that individuals have to interiorize the values, norms and knowledge forms upon which the continuance of society depends. In our paper, this typical meaning is questioned. We will trace the consequences of an hypothesis formulated by Heinz von Foerster. Following this hypothesis, the more an element of a system acts 'trivially' (i.e. predictably), the weaker its influence on the global behaviour of the system. Or - as von Foerster stated it metaphorically - individuals who act trivially will feel more 'alienated', because they will not 'recognise' themselves in their group's activities. Inversely, an individual has a greater impact on the group, and is less alienated, the more he acts non-trivially, in the sense of non-deterministic. We will outline perspectives for a reconsideration of the concepts of socialization and education, by elaborating on two consequences of this hypothesis.

(1) The relations between the values which guide an individual's activities, and the social values which socialization/education are expected to transmit to assure individual and social well-being, do not have to be simple and rigid. Differences in this regard might account for processes of social evolution.

(2) The particular lay-out of classrooms (one teacher, several pupils) with their apparatus of tests seems to provoke almost inevitably a certain 'trivialization' of individuals. But one might also suspect that this constellation precisely invites deviant activities of pupils who oppose the processes of 'trivialization' (cf. youth cultures). Intentional socialization creates its own side-effects.


Raf Vanderstraeten, Vakgroep Pedagogiek, RUU, Postbus 80.140/home: Frederik Hendrikstraat 137, 3508 TC Utrecht/home: 3583 VK Utrecht, The Netherlands. Email: R.Vanderstraeten@fss.uu.nl



1.6 Henk J.L. Voets:
"Systems Theory and Self-Organization"


The globalisation and internationalisation of the economic world system have created radical changes in the environment of the other (sub)systems. As a result, future environmental constellations cannot be explicitly forecast, and the other systems, including the business organizations, cannot be designed to respond to the generation of specific, definable behavioral modes. That is why we have to conceive a system/ organization in such a way that, within delimitable behavioral fields, it has the ability to generate the then required specific behavioral modes (Ulrich 1984).

Here we will concentrate on the improvement of the abilities of a special type of social system: the business organisation. Self-organization has been considered as one of the most important ways to realise an improvement in business organizations. Self-organization can be seen as a social phenomenon, the common ground of nowadays more popular phenomena in the sphere of business organizations, like decentralization and autonomy, productivity through people (in a lot of the Human Resource Management literature), empowerment and entrepreneurship of workers ( f.i. Peters et al). We will argue that self-organization may result in the formation of a social system that has important elements of an autopoietic system ( Zeleny and Hufford, 1992).

Self-organization has sometimes been accompanied by a form of financial participation by workers. We will argue, on the basis of theory and research on financial participation by workers, that in this form the economic system will not be destroyed, but surely modified, and sometimes to a great extent (Spear and Voets, 1995). The (neo-)classical economic theory is not able to cope with these processes of change in social systems (Lazonick 1991, and Hodgson 1993).

Nicolis and Prigogine (1977) observed that wherever we look, we discover evolutionary processes leading to diversification and increasing complexity. From the foregoing it will be clear that these processes also can be observed in business organizations. Furthermore, Nicolis and Prigogine have stressed the importance of self-organization in physical or biological systems. Here we will give attention to the importance of self-organization for social systems and, especially for business organizations as social systems.


Dr Henk J. Voets, Kanaalweg 2B, 2628 EB Delft, The Netherlands. Email: Henk.Voets@wtm.tudelft.nl



1.7 Nikolay S. Kravchenko:
"Ways of Search for Invariant of Social Systems' Evolution Forecast"


Modern social systems research has acquired new features as a result of two circumstances. The first one is that Prigogine's theory of dissipative structures is increasingly recognized, and is capable of explaining the emergent character of evolution in any system, including social systems. The second circumstance is based on the firmly established opinion that social systems are dynamic nonlinear systems which are far from equilibrium.
According to Prigogine there are no principal limitations on the stochastization of processes at the point of bifurcation, and therefore it is impossible to predict the state of a system after its passage. Our data allow us to affirm that the Progine's conclusion about the unpredictability of the system's state after it passed the bifurcation point is true to some extent. Evidently, it is true in connection with the time of reaching the point of bifurcation and the choice by the system of one of the further ways (destruction or origin of a dissipative structure). However it is not true concerning the possibility of predicting the character of the then arising new structures. Such a possibility is given by the P. Curie's universal principle of symmetry/dissymmetry, which was incorrectly interpreted by the author of dissipative structures.

According to our data, obtained by studying rather simple systems, the characteristics of dissipative structures arising at the point of bifurcation are simply determined by the sum of the dissymmetries of the system and by the disbalance process influencing it (the principle of the additivity of symmetry); if the system chooses a "catastrophic" way at the point of bifurcation, the structure of the arising "chaos" is determined by the sum of symmetries of an object and process (the principle of additivity of symmetry). In the first case there is a strictly limited increase of the degree of order (growth of complexity of the structure, lowering of symmetry, reduction of entropy, spasmodic progress), and in the second case there is the same strictly determined lowering of the degree of order (lowering of complexity, increasing of symmetry, increase of entropy, spasmodic regress).

This is true for any thermodynamically disbalanced systems, including social ones. Assuming such a mechanism for the formation of new states that arise after a system passes the point of bifurcation, a theoretical explanation is also corroborated concerning the empirically observed gradual character of the transformation or destruction of evolutional systems, up to a strictly determined level. The abovestated contains the possibility to forecast the evolution of social systems.


Nikolay S. Kravchenko, 1, Kooperativnaya St., Apartment 14, 680 000 Khabarovsk, Russia.




1.8 Anatoliy Shkurkin:
"Functional Peculiarities of Labour on Evolutional Stages of Civilization Development"

This paper studies the role and functions of labour in three qualitatively different evolutional stages of development, determined by different types of culture, as well as the peculiarities of labour in Russia under the conditions of modern bifurcation.

1) From gathering and hunting to industrial culture: The bifurcational transition from hunting and gathering to agrarian culture implied a new order of organization; the paradigm of society essentially changed  it is becoming a labour society after this phase transition. Taking the epoch of gathering and hunting for "primitive paradise", man was expelled from it due to his real sin: he was tempted by labour. The "damnation of humanity" means then that the forbidden fruit, once tasted by man, becomes the irreversible way of existence of human civilizations. As the result of this phase transition, man "acquired" labour and became its tool, and thereby a source of aggression towards the environment. Human needs developed, made possible by the accumulation of surplus natural resources.

2) The transition from agrarian to industrial culture was driven by three interconnected processes: a) abruptly increased environmental aggression caused by the division of Labour and population increase; b) limitations of existing labour tools for extracting increasingly needed natural resources; c) swift growth of needs in accumulationresultedin unequally distributed resources.

3) The third transition, from industrial culture to scientific and technological revolution, was accompanied by a global crisis, also of labour: the negentropic labour function, reflecting the activity of aggressive intellect, at a given stage dominates over the instrumental function of labour which should restrain this natural aggression of society. During all stages of evolutional transition, systemic activity was displaced to lower levels of the societal hierarchy, expressed in the increasing division of Labour into ever more specialized functions, touching ultimately the lowest structural section of social organization: individual consciousness. Mankind faces a global crisis of labour as the result of the previous phase transitions, reflecting the general conformity to natural laws: alternating entropic and negentropic processes lead inevitably to intensified crisis states, and increasing chaos in the social system, leading to a new order under dissipation conditions. Russia presently entered into the bifurcation phase of the crisis and chaotically roams between restoration and reformation.

Anatolyi M. Shkurkin, 23, A-2, 7, Dikopoltseva Street, 680 000 Khabarovsk, Russia. Email: andy@sb439.khv.ru






first page
sessions program








If you want more information, please contact Felix Geyer. Secretary


Your comments about these pages Chaime Marcuello. webmaster
created: June 10,1998