Publication 2812

Geyer F. (1992) Autopoiesis and social systems – 1. International Journal of General Systems 21(2): 175–183. Fulltext at
In this rejoinder to Zelený and Hufford’s paper, The application of autopoiesis in systems analysis: Are autopoietic systems also social systems? ", it is argued that applying autopoiesis, a biological concept, directly and literally to social systems in general, and to the family in particular, encounters practical difficulties of interpretation and adds no conceptual clarification or explanatory value to research in those fields. Additionally, and contrary to what Zelený and Hufford imply, social systems are not limited to cooperative units but include hierarchical command systems as well. \\Discussion follows Luhmann’s efforts to widen the concept of autopoiesis beyond its original biological connotations, thus making it applicable to the social sciences: social and psychic systems are not living systems, but meaning-using systems, based respectively on communication and consciousness as modes of meaning-based production rather than on individuals or even actions. Two concepts (selfobservation and self-reference) from second-order cybernetics are then presented and are illustrated with recent research examples. These two concepts are held to be important explanatory variables for describing the behavior of social systems.


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