Publication 4818

Mingers J. (1996) A comparison of Maturana’s autopoietic social theory and Giddens’ theory of structuration. Systems Research 13(3): 469–482. Fulltext at
The theory of autopoiesis developed by Maturana and Varela to explain living systems has been applied in various ways to social systems. However, whether such an application can be more than an analogy or metaphor is highly debatable. Maturana himself has generally not claimed that social systems were themselves autopoietic, but were the medium within which autopoietic systems could interact and become structurally coupled. This paper contrasts autopoiesis, and Maturana’s social theory, with Giddens’ theory of structuration which, at first sight, appears quite similar. The conclusion is that whilst autopoiesis does not fit structuration theory, there are valuable complementarities with Maturana’s social theory.

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