Complex Systems Readings LO6180

Lyle G. Courtney (
Sat, 23 Mar 1996 06:47:37 -0800 (PST)


[Host's Note: I asked Lyle to share his reading list on Complex Systems.
If anyone has additional readings, or recommendations on how to approach
this field, please join in by replying to this msg.]


The following is a pared-down list of works on complex, self-organizing
systems. I have included works from a variety of disciplines, and as is
evident from the dates, the literature is expanding rapidly from its
origins in life science and ecology to the social sciences and lately, the

There are at least three generations of systems thinking. The first
focused on mechanical function, organismic coherence and environmental
control. An example is Ludwig von Bertalanffy's General System Theory.
New York: George Brazilier, 1968. The second adds concepts from
theromodynamics, chaos theory, energetics, and synergetics. These
challenge the assumptions of linear dynamics and contin- uity underpinning
that control. Adams, Corning, and Emery are examples. The third is
focused on "synthesis at the edge of chaos" (Dyke 1994), on dissipative
structures, phase spaces, and attractors. Probably the best overall
reviews at this level are those by Goerner and Mainzer. Holling and
Maruyama are also a must for a fuller appreciation of complexity, although
no easy read.

A good deal of work has been done by the Santa Fe Institute and the John
Lawrence Institute; examples of their publications are cited here. Mario
Bunge's systemic philosophy of science, written in his 8-volume treatise,
is a detailed and well- articulated review of complex, self-organizing
systems. I have included 2 of its volumes as recommended starting points.
I have also included works in learning organizations besides Senge's -
Bergquist, Blau and Wheatley.

If I was a beginner, I would start with Adams, Emery and Hardin, then move
on to Bunge, volume 4, and Dyke; and then finally Goerner. I have
included the main disciplines in brackets after each work, although
complexity study prefers to see itself as interdisciplinary.

Adams, Richard N. The Eighth Day: Social Evolution as the
Self-Organization of Energy. Austin TX: University of Texas Press, 1988.

Aida, Shuhei, ed. The Science and Praxis of Complexity, Tokyo: United
Nations University, 1984. [economics, geography, politics, cultural

Allport, Gordon W. "The open system in personality theory." Journal of
Abnormal and Social Psychology 61 (1960): 301-310. [psychology]

Anderson, Philip W., Kenneth J. Arrow, and David Pines, eds. The Economy
as an Evolving Complex System, Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences
of Complexity, v. 5. New York: Addison Wesley, 1988.

Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination. ed. Michael Holquist. trans.
Caryl Emerson, and Michael Holquist. Slavic Series, No. 1. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1981. [cultural study - should read
Folch-Serra first - this is an early work about complexity in

Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine Books,
1972. [psychology]

Becker, Theodore L., ed. Quantum Politics: Applying Quantum Theory to
Political Phenomena, New York: Praeger, 1991.

Bergquist, William H. The Postmodern Organization: Mastering the Art of
Irreversible Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Blau, Judith R. Social Contracts and Economic Markets. New York: Plenum
Press 1993. [sociology]

Brooks, Daniel L., and E. O. Wiley. Evolution as Entropy: Toward a
Unified Theory of Biology. University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Bunge, Mario A. Epistemology and Methodology II: Understanding the World,
Treatise on Basic Philosophy, v. 6. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1983.

________. Ontology II: A World of Systems, Treatise on Basic Philosophy,
v. 4. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1979.

Caley, Michael T., and Daiyo Sawada, eds. Mindscapes: The Epistemology of
Magoroh Maruyama, Langhorne PA: Gordon and Breach, 1994. [the psychology
of learning organizations]

Casti, John L. Alternate Realities: Mathematical Models of Nature and
Man. New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1989. [the mathematics of open

Clark, William C., and R. E. Munn, eds. Sustainable Development of the
Biosphere. Cambridge University Press, 1986. [ecology, geography] -
contains pivotal essays by C. S. Holling and H. Brooks on resilience and
surprise, the latter applied to organizational theory

Corning, Peter. The Synergism Hypothesis. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983.
[more for general audiences - energetics and information theory]

Coser, Rose Laub. In Defense of Modernity: Role Complexity and Individual
Autonomy. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1991. [sociology -
complexity of social roles in cosmopolitan cities]

Dendrinos, Dmitrios. The Dynamics of Cities: Ecological Determinism,
Dualism and Chaos. London: Routledge, 1992. [planning]

Depew, David J., John D. Smith and Bruce H. Weber. Entropy, Information,
and Evolution: New Perspectives on Physical and Biological Evolution.
Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1988.

Depew, David J. and Bruce H. Weber. Darwinism Evolving; Systems Dynamics
and the Genealogy of Natural Selection. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1995.

diZerega, Gus. "Democracy and self-organization: the systemic foundation
for the democratic peace." Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies,
The University of California, 1991. Working Paper 91-17. [political
science - note I have a copy of this paper]

Dobuzinskis, Laurent. The Self Organizing Polity. Boulder CO: Westview
Press, 1987. [political science]

Douglas, Ian. "The city as an ecosystem." Progress in Physical Geography
5, no. 3 (1981): 315-367. [geography]

Dyke, Charles. The Evolutionary Dynamics of Complex Systems: A Study in
Biosocial Complexity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. [philosophy
- explores cities as complex systems]

________. "The world around us and how we make it: Human ecology as human
artifact." Advances in Human Ecology 3 (1994): 1-22.

Edelman, Gerald M. Bright Air, Brilliant Fire. New York: Basic Books,
1992. [biology, neuropsychology - about neural networks]

Eiser, J. Richard. Attitudes, Chaos and the Connectionist Mind. Oxford
U.K.: Blackwell, 1994. [psychology]

Emery, Frederick E., ed. Systems Thinking, 2nd. ed., 2 vols.
Harmondsworth U.K.: Penguin Books, 1981. [early work that is a good
starting point in organizational theory]

Folch-Serra, M. "Place, voice, space: Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogical
landscape." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 8 (1990):
255-274. [cultural theory]

Freese, Lee, ed. "Advances in Human Ecology." 1. Greenwich CT: Jai Press,

Goerner, Sally J. Chaos and the Evolving Ecological Universe, The World
Futures General Evolution Studies, v. 7. Langhorne PA: Gordon and Breach,
1994. [survey]

Goertzel, Ben. The Evolving Mind, The World Futures General Evolution
Studies, v. 6. Langhorne PA: Gordon and Breach, 1993. [neural networks]

Goodwin, Brian. How the Leopard Changed its Spots: The Evolution of
Complexity. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1994. [biology]

Hardin, Garrett. Filters Against Folly: How to Survive Despite
Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent. New York: Viking Penguin,
1985. [ecology, philosophy - one account of complexity in world views]

Hermans, Hubert J. M., and Harry J. G. Kempen. The Dialogical Self. San
Diego: Academic Press, 1993. [philosophy, psychology, cultural theory]

Holling, Crawford Stanley, ed. Adaptive Environmental Assessment and
Management, Chichester UK: John Wiley & Sons, 1978.

Imai, Ken-ichi. "The Japanese pattern of innovation and its evolution." in
Technology and the Wealth of Nations, 225-246. eds. Nathan Rosenberg,
Ralph Landau, and David C. Mowery. : Stanford University Press, 1992.
[application in learning organizations]

Kelly, Kevin. Out of Control: The Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization.
Reading MA: Addison-Wesley, 1994. [survey work more for general

Lam, Nina Siu-Ngan, and Lee DeCola. Fractals in Geography, eds. Englewood
Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1993. [more technical work on measurement using
fractals from chaos theory]

Linstone, Harold A., and Ian I. Mitroff. The Challenge of the 21st
Century: Managing Technology and Ourselves in a Shrinking World. Albany
NY: State University of New York Press, 1994. [learning organizations]

Lorenz, Edward N. The Essence of Chaos. Seattle WA: University of
Washington Press, 1993. [atmospheric science - a must if one really wants
to understand chaos theory]

Lowen, Walter. Dichotomies of the Mind: A Systems Science Model of the
mind and Personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1982. [systems science
- a precursor to mind complexity in personality theory]

Mainzer, Klaus. Thinking in Complexity: The Complex Dynamics of Matter,
Mind, and Mankind. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1994. [survey]

Maturana, Humberto R., and Francisco J. Varela. Autopoesis and Cognition:
The Realization of the Living. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1980. [biology]

Montgomery, Keith. "Concepts of equilbrium and evolution of geomorphology:
the model of branch systems." Progress in Physical Geography 13, no. 1
(1989): 47-66. [physical geography]

Nicolis, Gregoire, and Ilya Prigogine. Exploring Complexity: An
Introduction. New York: W. H. Freeman, 1989. [a foundation work for
bifurcations - physics and chemistry, but extended to social systems]

Peterman, William. "Quantum theory and geography: What can Dr. Bertlmann
teach us?" The Professional Geographer 46, no. 1 (1994): 1-9.

Prigogine, Ilya, and Isabelle Stengers. Order out of Chaos. New York:
Bantam Books, 1984. [ditto Nicolis and Prigogine]

Schelling, Thomas C. Micromotives and Macrobehaviour. New York: W. W.
Norton & Company, 1978.

Schieve, William C. and Peter M. Allen. Self-Organization and Dissipative
Structures: Applications in the Physical and Social Sciences. Austin TX:
The University of Texas Press, 1982.

Scott, Bernard. "The cybernetics of Gordon Pask - part 1." International
Cybernetics Newsletter (1980): 327-337. [cultural theory and artificial
intelligence - goes with Bakhtin]

________. "The cybernetics of Gordon Pask - part 2." International
Cybernetics Newsletter (1980): 479-491.

Scott, George P, ed. Time, Rhythms, and Chaos in the New Dialogue with
Nature, Report of the Third John Lawrence Interdisciplinary Symposium, an
Interpretive Symposium on the Social and Humanistic Applications of
Dissipative Structures and Self-Organization Science. Ames IA: The Iowa
State University Press, 1991.

Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the
Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Stadler, Michael, and Peter Kruse. "Cognitive Systems as Self-Organizing
Systems." in Selforganization: Portrait of a Scientific Revolution,
181-93. eds. Wolfgang Krohn, Gunter Kuppers, and Helga Nowotny. Dordrecht:
Kluwer Academic, 1990. [the work as a whole is a difficult read, but this
paper is an exception]

Stein, D. L., ed. Lectures in the Science of Complexity. New York:
Addison-Wesley Longman, 1988. [Santa Fe Institute - contains a key article
by economist Brian Arthur on technological 'lock-ins']

Steiner, Dieter. "Human ecology as transdisciplinary science, and science
as part of human ecology." in Human ecology: fragments of
anti-fragmentary views of the world, 47-76. eds. Deiter Steiner, and
Markus Nauser. London: Routledge, 1993. [mainly geography but also
psychology - a survey about ecological views generally, rather than
complexity study itself]

Stern, David I. "Do regions exist? Implications of synergetics for
regional geography." Environment and Planning A 24 (1992): 1431-48.

Weber, Bruce H., David J. Depew, and James D. Smith, eds. Entropy,
Information, and Evolution: New Perspectives on Physical and Biological
Evolution, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1988.

Weingartner, Paul, and Georg Dorn, eds. Studies on Mario Bunge's Treatise,
Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990.

Wheatley, Margaret J. Leadership and the New Science. San Francisco:
Barrett-Koehler, 1994. [learning organizations]

Yates, Frederick E., ed. Self-Organizing Systems: The Emergence of Order.
New York: Plenum Press, 1987. [mainly life science applications]

Zimmerer, Karl S. "Human geography and the 'new ecology'." AAG 84, no. 1
(1994): 108-125. [ecology - concept of 'patchiness', which for me is a
critical part of complex systems not yet fully incorporated into the


"Lyle G. Courtney" <>

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