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The Hidden Connections: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social Dimensions of Life Into a Science of Substainability [Hardcover]

Fritjof Capra
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Aug 2002
The author of the bestselling The Tao of Physics and The Web of Life explores the profound social implications of emerging scientific principles and provides an innovative framework for using them to understand and solve some of the most important issues of our time.

For most of history, scientific investigation was based on linear thinking. But the 1980's brought a revolutionary change. With the advent of improved computer power, scientists could apply complexity theory--nonlinear thinking--to scientific processes far more easily than ever before. Physicist Fritjof Capra was at the forefront of the revolution, and in The Web of Life he extended its scope by showing the impact of complexity theory on living organisms. In The Hidden Connections he breaks through another frontier, this time applying the principles of complexity theory to an analysis of the broad sphere of all human interactions.

Capra posits that in order to sustain life in the future, the principles underlying our social institutions must be consistent with the organization that nature has evolved to sustain the "web of life." In a lucid and convincing argument, Capra explains how the theoretical ideas of science can be applied to the practical concerns of our time. Covering every aspect of human nature and society, he discusses such vital matters as the management of human organizations, the challenges and dangers of economic globalization, and the nature and the problems of biotechnology. He concludes with an authoritative, often provocative plan for designing ecologically sustainable communities and technologies as alternatives to the current economic globalization.

A brilliant, incisive examination of the relationship between science and our social systems, The Hidden Connections will spark enormous debate in the scientific community and inspire us to think about the future of humanity in a new way.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books (Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385494718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385494717
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.8 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,426,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Universal networks underlying existence 6 Sep 2003
Capra attempts to provide a conceptual framework that integrates the physical, cognitive and social dimensions in order to present a unified view of consciousness, society and life and also to develop a coherent and systemic approach to addressing the world's most pressing problems.
In the first part he constructs a new theoretical framework by looking at the nature of life, the nature of consciousness and the nature of social reality. He deals extensively with networking that has become an important social phenomenon and a critical source of power in the world.
The second part explores the management of human organisations, i.e. why and how these are living systems; economic globalisation; a systemic analysis of the ethical and scientific problems of biotechnology, with reference to the human genome project, and; the major problems facing the world today.
The author does a good job of pointing out the unified systems that integrate the biological, cognitive and social aspects of life and of explaining how a new vision of reality is unfolding, together with the social implications of this transformation.
Hidden Connections is a great read. The book contains explanatory notes, a bibliography and an index. Other interesting books dealing with this subject include Small World by Mark Buchanan and Universality by Mark Ward.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecoliteracy Can Save the Planet 10 Nov 2002
By J.W.K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are looking to save the world via fiction, see Daniel Quinn. If you are looking to save the world via non-fiction, look no further than Hidden Connections. This book will provide you with everything you need (including a new mind and new conception of self) to get right with the ecosphere and the damage we have all helped inflict upon her. (Don't think the world is in trouble, see Lester Brown's ECO-ECONOMY).
Not a science buff, chapter one didn't blow my doors, although I was interested by what Capra had to say and (luckily) was able to wrap my head around all the concepts. In this chapter, he traces the evolution of life on the planet, and therewith provides a novel definition of life. A good place to start any book, I suppose, but certainly one about the future prospects of life on this planet.
Chapter two deals with mind and consciousness. In this chapter, Capra bridges the ancient Cartesian chasm between mind and body, defines cognition and consciousness, and explains the meaning of language. He even throws out some theories about the origin and evolution of all the above.
Chapter three breaks from the previous two chapters, as Capra delves into social reality. In this chapter he gives meaning to the world "meaning," explains social theory from Max Weber to Habermas, discusses human freedom, explains the three forms of power (coercive, compensatory, and conditioned power, or education), and talks about technology and culture.
For me, the book really picks up with chapter four, "Life and Leadership in Organizations." This chapter, Capra discusses what the definition of life means when applied to the corporate business world. Issues such as managment, labor rights, and the role of creativity are sure to please. It is this chapter that gets the ball rolling, which doesn't stop until the very last page.
Chapter seven almost left me breathless. Here Capra provides a thoroughgoing critique of the globalization. Books like THE CASE AGAINST THE GLOBAL ECONOMY are much longer and more detailed, but that is exactly what gives Capra's presentation unique: As with every subject, he synthesizes his argument into concise, lazer-like prose, drawing upon the work of hundreds of scholars, all well-documented in an A++ index.
Chapter eight deals with biotechnology, perhaps the defining charadcteristic of 21st century. This chapter covers a lot of ground: He explains genes, advances the freewill-determinism argument (freewill wins), gives a concise history of the Green Revolution, genetically modified organisms, the silent organic revolution, biopiracy, ecodesign, and biomimicry. As with the chapter on the global economy, this chapter is written in stunning prose that will not disappoint.
The last chapter is called "Changing the Game". In this chapter, Capra outlines the ecocide we are inflicting on the planet (again, a subject discussed singularly and to great satisfaction in ECO-ECONOMY), and what we can do to fix it. In this chapter, he gives a coherent definition of sustainability, outlines ecolitery, explains solar power, hypercars, converstion to a zero-waste hydrogen economy, and green tax shift that supports employment and taxes non-sustainable practices.
The way in which Capra weaves the concept of the network throughout the whole of this book is facinating, a subject which harkens back to his last book, THE WEB OF LIFE. Throughout HIDDEN CONNECTIONS, you will be exposed to many of networks with subtle power that is revolutionizing human culture and the fate of the planet as a whole: including academic networks, social protest networks and political networks. You will not finish this volume without feeling completely changed - and informed. No doubt, ecoliteracy can save the planet. I highly recommend this book.
A quote to wet your whistle: "Whereas the extraction of resources and the accumlation of waste are bound to reach their ecological limits, the evolution of life has demonstrated for more than three billion years that in a sustainable Earth houshold, there are no limits to development, diversification, innovation, and creativity."
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading 2 Sep 2002
By Carol Zilinsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the sort of book that one would want to make required reading for all cognitive beings on this planet, as our future may well depend upon behaviors based on the information available here.
Unfortunately, the complexity of say, the Santiago Thoery, although beautifully written, seems to be beyond the interest or understanding of most people. They might even start it and put it aside in frustration because it conflicts with deeply engrained ideas from philosophy, biology, and religion.
In this book, Capra expands on the ideas presented in Web of Life, and makes them relevant to our present and future lives, as well as to Life itself. I cannot recommend it enough.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hidden Connections/Life and Leadership in Organizations 21 Oct 2002
By G. Sinner - Published on Amazon.com
Chapter Four of this book offers everyone, but particularly leaders, change advocates and consultants a rich opportunity to learn about systemic change in organizations. Capra articulates an accessible, fundamental conceptual theory of human organizations that has immediate relevance at all organizational levels. Application of these ideas and insights will build capacity for large scale, sustainable change which, at least in my own field of education reform, has been far too rare. I like the idea of a "community of practice" as being one definition of an organization. He uses Meg Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers' treatment of human organizations particularly well. (I hope they agree!) If the essential question is, "How do we create sustainable change in human organizations?" some the answers are in Chapter Four of The Hidden Connections and its supporting bibliography. The rest of the book is an exciting excursion through living systems small and large that reflects Capra's quest to understand how everything that matters works.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read! 10 Sep 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book was really a true pleasure to read! This book provides us with a very beautiful picture of how all matter (both organic and non-organic) including ourselves is connected and related to each other. Even though the author tries to illuminate us on how we are destroying ourselves, he has a positive vision that is still realizeable if we allow our consciousness to evolve more. I believe we are in desparate need of writers like this at this day and age where we are closing in on the extinction of our own species. If you'd like to learn about how all of this relates to the human mind and why we do some of the terrible things we do to ourselves, read "The Ever-Transcending Spirit" by Toru Sato. It is an absolutely incredible book that will further your understanding of nature (including ourselves) immensely.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something for Everyone 16 Feb 2003
By Brooke Frost - Published on Amazon.com
This book has something for almost everyone. It extends complexity theory into social networks, bringing in discussion of communication and the making of meaning. It addresses cognition and consciousness, even touching on spirituality, in Chapter 2. It moves into organizational practice beginning in Chapter 4 that includes a vision of leadership, then moves to the larger world stage, addressing global capitalism, biotechnology, the new civil society, and eco-sustainability. He even suggests a new tax structure!
There is a lot in this book, and Capra models the web of interconnectedness throughout. Because there is so much, sometimes I would like to see more depth in areas that interest me particularly, but he gives hints of where to look for deeper information for those interested. This book clearly builds on his previous work "The Web of Life" and while still theoretical, brings in a great deal more practical application. I highly recommend the book.
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