International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.


HISTORY (Systemic) 1)3)

L.von BERTALANFFY expressed his belief in the possibility of theoretical history "Sociology is essentially concerned with a temporal cross-section as human societies are; history with the "longitudinal" study how societies become and develop… It seems history can learn from the system theorists, not ultimate solutions but a sounder methodological outlook… The construction of conceptual models in history is not only permissible but, as a matter of fact, is at the basis of any historical interpretation as distinguished from mere enumeration of data, i.e. chronicle or annals" (1962, p.15).

However, historic systems (i.e. human groups in general, states, cultures) are nonlinear in their evolution, and thus both globally deterministic and, at critical moments, probabilistic. Thus, merely homeostatic models would be insufficient and, in many cases, downright unsatisfying. S. GOONATILAKE, following P.M. ALLEN, sees history as a sequence of bifurcations. (1991, p.162).

Indeed, as stated by L. D. KIEL: "(In) human history… in many cases, the most significant events were those when existing symmetries dissolved and were replaced by new patterns of interaction and modes of organization" (1993, p.35).

The obvious and progressive acceleration of history (emphasized and thoroughly investigated by F. MEYER, 1954) seems to be related to the also progressive acceleration of the use of energy, which – after a slow growth since the paleolitic era – took an exponential rhythm since the 18th Century. It is thus a thermodynamic process of dissipative structuration in a system far-from-equilibrium, submitted to wild fluctuations.

This compiler believes that history needs a general model applicable to any human organized congeries and to their transformations through time. (Ch. FRANÇOIS, 1986 – See "Socio-historical system").

From another viewpoint, systemic history could become a useful tool for sociognosis, i.e. a better self-understanding of societies- a kind of collective consensual and Socratic "gnôti seauton", analogical to autognosis.

Some specific difficulties should however be considered. Each historian has his own reference frame, related to his cultural surroundings. IBN KHALDUN for ex., had necessarily as a 14 Century moslem historian, an approach and worldview very different from A. TOYNBEE or F. BRAUDEL in the 20 Century.

As a result, even if methodology could become definitively established, for example in systemic terms, every generation within every culture will easily want to revise past history in its own terms.

History tends to develop as a succession of evolving interpretations. This is a kind of extension of DILTHEY's "Entwicklungsgeschichte" ("developmental history"), as applied to philosophy (1922-1938), sections xvii-xviii)

Moreover, specific interpretations of history in a culture tend to become autopoietic in that culture.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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