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General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Revised Edition) (Penguin University Books) Revised Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807604533
ISBN-10: 0807604534
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About the Author

Ludwig von Bertalanffy was the creator of general system theory and the author of ten books. He died in 1972.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin University Books
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller Inc.; Revised edition (March 17, 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807604534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807604533
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By 01001101 01100001 01110010 01101011 on February 11, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've looked high and low for a text summarizing systems theory and I write this review in near shock having just finished this book. I say "shock" because I just can't believe how remarkably undated this book is after nearly 40 years (first edition 1969). I've read books by Checkland, Lazlo, Weinberg and many others but nothing summarizes the systems world view better than this classic. You've gotta love a scientist/philosopher who quotes Aldous Huxley liberally. I'd give it six stars if I could.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By F. Mullen on November 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sometime in the mid-1990's I was appointed to lead the hardware portion of an engineering project, and a much senior colleague was appointed the software lead. At our first meeting I presented a brilliantly overwrought integration plan, and then asked him what he thought. "I don't know," he replied, "I'm still groping."

You get the sense that Ludwig von Bertalanffy also was groping as he wrote General Systems Theory. Between pages 1 and 259 you read many interesting things, but if asked at the end to articulate the fundamental principles of general systems theory, you might be embarrassed. There is nothing here for the mind to take firm hold of, no basic insight from which to build a theory--no universal law of gravitation, no axioms of probability, no fundamental theorem of algebra, not even a grand hypothesis, like random-mutation/natural-selection. A "general theory" of anything is difficult to imagine without such a foundation, which is perhaps why General Systems Theory in the end leaves you feeling undernourished.

Even the mathematical part is unsatisfying. Chapter 3, "Some System Concepts in Elementary Mathematical Consideration," purports to present quantitative tools. "For illustration, we choose a system of simultaneous differential equations," explains the author. But the equations are written in an entirely abstract and thoroughly general fashion, to the point that, if you're familiar with systems of differential equations, the presentation is pat; if not, it's opaque. And once the general solutions are presented, there is no attempt to solidify understanding through examples. This is an exposition for the mathematically conversant in whom intuition is already well developed. There is no attempt to edify the layman.
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71 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Mandel on October 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Perhaps the best way to start this review is with Bertalanffy's own words: "Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new catagories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology..."
"These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific discipline which we call general system theory. It's subject matter is formulation of principles that are valid for "systems" in general, whatever the nature of the component elements and the relations or "forces" between them...
"General system theory, therefore, is a general science of wholeness"...
Wholeness is not new, the Chinese and Greeks had their own versions, but what Bertalanffy did is make it an authentic science.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Zac on January 1, 2005
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This book is for people interested in interdisciplinary research from a theoretical point of view. It is like a time machine to allow a look through the eyes of Bertalanffy to the 1960's and the prevailing scientific views at that time. Above all, this is due to the 'special' style the book is writen. With 'special' I mean, that Bertalanffy does not write completely factual and impersonal but more emotional.

All in all, this book does not provide you with solutions to problems but gives you the ability after reading to ask questions you could not ask before because you did not know the problem at all. For me, it was really interesting to contrast the ideas discussed in the book with our current state of knowlegde over 50 years later (the book covers the work of Bertalanffy from 1930's - 1960's). I recommend this book to everyone interested in foundations of basic research in physics, chemistry, biology and pschology, it should be a must read.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Edgar Paternina on June 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
GST is certainly the best intent we have to transcend the mechanistic worldview from the point of view of the new science. And there is just one way to transcend that framework and it just by positing a new sphere to manage complexity: the sphere of life.Teilhard, Bergson, Bertanffy were "biologists" but also philosophers, great philosophers and this is probably why today the Science of Complexity is looking at Life, and why the new thinkers are more and more aware that if we want to understand organizations, human organizations, we must first understand life. So we find a clear turn in books about complexity and administration trying to learn from the lesson of life...this is the only way to enter the age of adaptation as Thomas Petzinger calls it. Our time owes to GST a great deal, and as so, GST stands as a monument to that whole movement toward the global nature of our civilization of the same kind of The Phenomenon of Man and Creative Evolution.
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