Publication 6382

Robb F. F. (1991) Accounting: A virtual autopoietic system? Systems Practice 4(3): 215–235. Fulltext at
The debate about the application of the concept of “autopoiesis” to social systems has been disabled by the difficulties of defining the autopoiesis of a specific social system ostensively. This paper considers the evidence that the circular relations of production which define autopoietic processes appear both in the cognitive domain and in the domains of human activity associated with “accounting.” Without a sound theoretical footing and, in the eyes of some, fatally flawed, accounting appears to be organizationally closed, capable of adapting itself to its rapidly changing environment, and probably well able to engulf many of the alternative ways of representing activities in society. It is concluded that if there are indeed “autopoietic suprahuman systems” of a natural kind mobilizing mankind in their service, then accounting is to be numbered among them.

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