Grounding Sociology in Cybernetics
XVth ISA World Congress of Sociology 2002, Research Committee on Sociocybernetics Presentation Paper
24 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2002
Date Written: August 1, 2002
This paper uses Transaction Byte Analysis (TBA) as developed by the author to ground sociology in cybernetics. Bytes provide a universal unit of social analysis. No relationship or organisation can exist without some sort of communication that can be measured in bytes. The transmission or storage of bytes involves physical changes in materials or in energy states subject to scientific laws. Information overload and bounded rationality can be explained by the physiological and neurological limits on the ability of individuals to receive, store, process or communicate bytes and so information, knowledge and wisdom. Cybernetic laws of requisite variety in communications, control and decision-making provide additional criteria for evaluating and/or designing social systems and organisations with unreliable components.
The power of TBA is illustrated by showing how the nested network of firms around the town of Mondragon in Spain follows the strategies used in nature to create and manage complexity through simple components. Individuals, firms, groups of firms, and the whole network are shown to be a hierarchy of holons or 'viable systems' described as a 'holarchy'. A hypothesis of TBA is that evolution developed contrary characteristics in social animals to economise bytes for their self-regulation. Unlike many other organisational theories, TBA accepts that individuals can be either, or both, trusting/suspicious, cooperative/competitive and/or altruistic/selfish. TBA is compared with the Transaction Cost Economics paradigm, which it subsumes to allow any type of institution to be investigated to provide the foundations for a 'science of organisation'.
Keywords: Cybernetics, Holons, Mondragon, Requisite variety, Science of organisation, Self-regulation, Social architecture, Tensegrity, Theory of the firm, Transaction byte analysis, Transaction
JEL Classification: A14, B49, D00, L00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation