In Search of General Systems Theory

David Rousseau, Julie Billingham, Jennifer Wilby, Stefan Blachfellner


The search for a General Systems Theory (GST) formally became a scientific enterprise with the founding of the Society for the Advancement of General Systems Theory (living on today as the International Society for the Systems Sciences) in 1954.  Many scientific advances have been made towards a GST, but GST is still incomplete and there is a rich ongoing debate about the nature, structure and value of GST.  In this paper we argue that the general theory of a discipline has a generic structure, which can be inferred by attending to the process by which disciplines build up their knowledge base.  We develop a model of this generic structure and then use it to envision the structure and scope of GST.  This provides a principled baseline for assessing the developmental status of GST, planning work towards its completion, and defending the potential value of GST.


General Systems Theory, GST, GST*, General Systems Transdisciplinarity, GSTD, Boulding, AKG Model

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Systema: connecting matter, life, culture and technology (ISSN: 2305-6991) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.