General Systems Theory

15 May 1997 15:42

"Lord, I disbelieve; help Thou my unbelief."
An off-shoot of cybernetics, with (so far as I can see) far less to recommend it. This is not to say that none of its advocates ever produced anything worthwhile, just that the credit for it should not go to the verbiage which passed for "approaches to a general theory of systems" (query --- why is that phrase much more respectable than "theory of things in general"?). Its hey-day was in the '60s and '70s, when my father was studying planning, and took a course or three in it from C. West Churchman (see below); it seems to have become extinct by now, though some of the survivors have tried to hitch it to complexity. It is not to be confused with dynamical systems theory in mathematics, still less systems of equations, though I've seen philosophers and science-studies people do both.