Beer's Viable System Model and Luhmann's Communication Theory: 'Organizations' from the Perspective of Metagames

Systems Research and Behavioral Science (2013)

23 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2013 Last revised: 2 Aug 2013

Mark Johnson

University of Bolton

Loet Leydesdorff

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)

Date Written: June 14, 2013

Abstract

Beyond the descriptions of ‘viability’ provided by Beer’s Viable System Model, Maturana’s autopoietic theory or Luhmann’s communication theory, questions remain as to what ‘viability’ means across different contexts. How is ‘viability’ affected by the Internet and the changing information environments in a knowledge-based economy? For Luhmann, social systems like businesses are coordination systems that do not ‘live’ as viable systems but operate because they relieve human beings from environmental complexity. We situate Beer’s concept of viability with Luhmann’s through analyzing the way that ‘decisions’ shape organizations in an information environment. Howard’s (1971) metagame analysis enables us to consider the ‘viable system’ as an ‘agent system’ producing utterances as moves in a discourse game within the context of its information environment. We discuss how this approach can lead to an accommodation between Beer’s practical orientation and Luhmann’s sociological critique where the relationship between viability, decision and information can be further explored.

Keywords: communication, viability, Beer, Luhmann, metagame

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Mark and Leydesdorff, Loet, Beer's Viable System Model and Luhmann's Communication Theory: 'Organizations' from the Perspective of Metagames (June 14, 2013). Systems Research and Behavioral Science (2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2279467 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2279467

Mark Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Bolton ( email )

Deane Road
Bolton, BL3 5AB
United Kingdom

Loet Leydesdorff

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) ( email )

PO Box 15793
Amsterdam, 1001 NG
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.leydesdorff.net

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