Publication 6220

Biggiero L. (2018) Providing sound theoretical roots to sustainability science: Systems science and (second-order) cybernetics. Sustainability Science 13(5): 1323–1335. Fulltext at
After its infant stage, a new science usually starts reflexing on its identity and theoretical roots. Sustainability science is not an exception, and the needs of self-reflection are even more pressing because of its inter- and trans-disciplinary characters, which involve a plenty of different approaches, theories and practices. In fact, such a variety does not provide a consistent ground for its future development. Without a solid grounding on a reliable base, the plethora of different theories that currently crowds its arena could in the near future produce a rejection from disciplinary specialized researchers, thus confining sustainability science to a scientific fad. Convincing theoretical roots can be found in systems science and cybernetics, and in particular second-order cybernetics, once amended from autopoiesis theory and radical constructivism, which raise serious doubts of validity and applicability. If sustainability science acknowledged its systemic and cybernetic nature and adopted second-order cybernetics in its amended version, it would gain a powerful reference paradigm and a theoretical common denominator and language to support its researchers and facilitate their knowledge exchange. From their part, systems science and cybernetics would be better understood and embraced as powerful sources of knowledge for understanding modern challenging problems, and second-order cybernetics, after decades of scarce relevance for other scientific disciplines, would be revitalized and would finally evolve adequately in a promising science and social practice.

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