Publication 4837

Salthe S. N. & Matsuno K. (1995) Self-organization in hierarchical systems. Journal of Social and Evolurionary Systems 18(4): 327–333. Fulltext at
Currently there are two movements emerging within systems theory in connection with biology: self-organization and hierarchy theory. They are treated together here because they represent polar oppositional perspectives. Self-organization is concerned with change viewed as from within a changing system; whereas hierarchy theory, in the form familiar to most systems workers, is an externalist descriptive framework for dealing with constraints bearing on a system from multiple scalar levels. Hierarchy theory also deals externally, in another form (the specification hierarchy), with integrative levels as developmental stages within an ontogenetic trajectory. In this article we conclude that, although self-organization and hierarchies are incommensurable discourses, they could be taken to be complementary, each supplying what the other lacks in understanding systems.

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