The Problems of Social Autopoiesis

Zeleny and Hufford apply the concept of autopoiesis to three different classes of systems – biological, chemical, and social. My response is concerned with the latter and in particular with Zeleny and Hufford’s claims that social systems are autopoietic and those autopoietic systems are inherently social. I argue that these claims are quite ill-founded. There are a number of general weaknesses with Zeleny and Hufford’s paper, but, most importantly, the authors fail to see major problems in the ascription of autopoiesis to social systems. These problems are outlined, and the responses of other writers such as Malurana, Varela. and Luhmann are explored. Finally, the importance of and problems with Maturana’s and Varela’s work is assessed.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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