abstracts

4.1 Martti Siisiainen:
"Voluntary associations and the theory of autopoietic systems"


The starting point of my paper is that voluntary associations can be seen as a mediating 'instance' between interaction systems and organization systems on the one hand and between civil society and social subsystems on the other. The paper is divided into four subproblems:

1. Associations are based on trust and their general function is the reduction of 'a double contingency inherent in interaction' (Parsons).

2. Associations combine features of interaction systems, groups and organization systems.

3. Associations can be seen as a mediation between social movements and subsystems. Associations convert disturbances and challenges from civil society into such a form that social subsystems can deal with them. Associations convert disturbances of civil society - at least to some extent - to'languages' used in social subsystems increasing the ability of social subsystems to resonate. This means that associations have functioned as an alarm for the social system.

4. Voluntary associations have helped to combine different codes of social subsystems into similar discourses, making their intercommunication - at least to some extent - possible (eg. between moral and economic codes).

Examples are selected among the critical associations from the early 19th century and from the present period. In the critical part of the paper the limitations of Luhmann's theory in studying voluntary associations are discussed. The main shortcomings are connected with Luhmann's conception of action and problems in conceptualizing the dynamics of civil society.


Martti Siisiainen, Department of Social Studies, University of Lapland, P.O. Box 122, FIN-96101 Rovaniemi, Finland. Email: msiisiai@levi.urova.fi



4.2 Michael McElwee:
"Chaos Theory and Complexity as Fountainheads for Design of an Organization Theory Building Workshop"


In mid-1994, contemplating a dissertation in the area of organization theory, I created and conducted a workshop to test the feasibility of grounding the project in chaos theory and recent studies of complexity. It was not at all clear that chaos and complexity could be shown to apply to organizational systems except as metaphors for certain organizational behaviors. The task seemed daunting, but an experiential workshop based on conceptions of complexity articulated by Conway, Reynolds, and others (Gleick, 1987; Levy, 1992; Lewin, 1992; Waldrop, 1992) seemed possible. It was hoped that the workshop would shed some light on the potential for situating chaos theory in the organizational milieu in a manner beyond mere metaphor, thereby alleviating the anxiety and outright fear being felt at the time. This paper presents the principles that guided the design and conduct of the workshop, which succeeded far beyond expectations and has been expanded to increase its usefulness, as well as some of the resultant findings. In time, the dissertation project was successful, too.


Michael McElwee, 7 Darnby Court, Orinda, CA 94563-4207, USA. Email: mmcelwee@ix.netcom.com



4.3 Carina Fiedeldey-Van Dijk:
"Faces of complexity in research methodology: Delphi contributions"


Students and practitioners alike often describe and experience research methodology as being complex in nature. Complexity within this field brings to mind an intricate mix of steps and skills, planning and procedures, the results being manifold and a complicated conglomerate of information. H.W. Ahlemeyer aptly stated that complexity (as used in socio-cybernetics) is not only a scientific concept. For example, on a conceptual level, complexity can also be found to be the underlying construct of empirical research findings.

In an international Delphi study, where respondents commented by means of

- Brain storming
- Quantifying of descriptions in terms of percentages
- A schematic presentation of their ideas

on issues regarding research methodology per se, notions of complexity became a growth experience for the research team. Almost every level and dimension of research methodology were presented with unique attributes that were observed, categorised and classified into themes and coded during first-order and second-order data analysis of the responses. On a third-order level, the observations were conceptually labelled as contributing to complexity. This conception is found to have several faces, which will be discussed by following two viable approaches, that is, by looking into issues raised by the respondents regarding research methodology:

- From different levels of expertise
- From seemingly different paradigms (i.e., positivistic and idealistic paradigms) used by the respondents.

Some patterns within these faces of complexity were observed on the majority of levels, which will be briefly highlighted. These may be used to explore the meaning of each of the faces in an effort to make it understandable. It is hoped that these conceptual observations will contribute to research methodology and its future development.


Carina Fiedeldey-van Dijk, Department of Psychology, University of Pretoria, Lynwood Road, 0181 Brooklyn, South Africa. Email: Fieddijk@libarts.up.ac.za



4.4 Chris Collinge:
"Self-organisation of society by scale: a spatial reworking of social regulation theory"


A neglected aspect of the spatial articulation of society is its organisation by scale. The scaling of social systems gives rise to a 'vertical' ordering that combines with the more familiar 'horizontal' ordering by place. The present article examines the theory of social regulation in order to suggest how this may be reworked in order to generate a model of societalisation by both scale and place. The regulation approach is at heart a cybernetic theory, whereby innovations in accumulation and regulation - whatever their origins - will tend to be selected and woven into a stable pattern if they contribute to expanded reproduction of capital. Systems of accumulation and regulation that are to survive by resolving the economic problems of the preceding period must respond to the constraints and opportunities associated with the latter by meeting certain requirements - spatial conditions - involving scale organisations of accumulatory and regulatory practices that complement one another and contribute to their combined reproduction. The analysis suggests that it is possible on this basis to develop a regulationist account of the fundamental tendency towards the integration and division of societies at different scales, and the emergence through this process of dominant scales of societalisation in each epoch.


Chris Collinge, CURS, J.G. Smith Bldg., University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom. Email: c.j.collinge@bham.ac.uk



4.5 Paris Arnopoulos:
"Sociophysics & Sociocybernetics - An Essay on the Natural Basis & Limits of Political Control"


One of the critical problems of sociocybernetics is to determine the necessity, possibility and desirability of social control by political institutions. This conundrum has been tackled repeatedly in history with various responses; some of which have been tried and failed, while others are still going on locally and temporally. Although the problems of social control are pervading and continuing, changing circumstances make all solutions parochial and ephemeral at best.

On this assumption, the question is how much further can this issue be pursued in a more general or theoretical manner. Given the complexity, extensity and intensity of contemporary social systems, can some optimal sociocybernetic principles be found to apply here and now as well as everywhere and always?

It is fortunate that recent scientific discoveries give new insights to old puzzles. The latest advances of General Systems, Complex, Quantum, and Chaos Theories show great promise for various social applications. Combining these theories, this paper will apply the Sociophysics paradigm, which is particularly suitable here because it makes explicit the already implicit metaphors and fundamental isometries between the natural and social sciences, thus contributing to their mutual consolidation and convergence.

The central hypothesis here is that some measure of social control is necessary, possible and desirable; so the practical question becomes when, where and how it can be optimized. On the thesis that complex natural and cultural systems are difficult to know and understand, trying to manipulate them is precarious; so any attempt to control them must be thought and carried out humbly, carefully and responsibly.

Under the circumstances, human interference with fragile or chaotic systems found in both nature and culture, should be based on the principles of minimizing environmental disturbance and maximizing holistic balance. The best policy would then seem to be chosing a post-modern sociocybernetic strategy which approaches a golden mean between the libertrarian and totalitarian extremes.


Paris Arnopoulos, Department of Political Science, Concordia University, Montreal, H3G 1M8, Quebec, Canada. Email: PARIS@vax2.concordia.ca



4.6 Heinrich W. Ahlemeyer
"Complexity and Organizational Change"


If 'complexity' is not only a scientific concept, but also an observation and immediate experience of actors in social reality itself, what does it imply on the level of organization? Following Luhmann, organizations are conceived of as distinctive social systems which consist of decisions which consist of decisions which they themselves produce.

The paper examines its research problem - what characterizes the observation and handling of complexity on the level of organizations - by using a four field pattern. This is gained by cross tabulating two basic differences: the difference of redundancy and variety as two central dimensions of organizations and the difference of increasing and reducing as two basic ways of dealing with complexity. In a third dimension, this pattern is tentatively complemented by a third difference which distinguishes between (the observation of) the self complexity of the organization and the outward complexity of its environment.

This general 'grammar' is dynamized by applying it to topical challenges of innovation and organizational change. Using empirical data from different case studies of organizational change, the paper examines the distinction between active propellants of change and passive endurers of innovation in this context and asks whether there is an 'excluded third' possiblity to this dual alternative. Groups and networks are analysed as two main problem solving features of organizations in dealing with new dimensions of internal and external complexity which arise from new constellations of competition and cooperation on a global level.


Heinrich W. Ahlemeyer, ISYS, Diekbree 5, 48157 Muenster, Germany. Email: ISYSMS@aol.com




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