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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kuhn's theory in practice
Let's get this out of the way first - I really like and enjoy both the book and the principles behind it. The idea of a general system theory (GST), which transcends the mechanistic worldview and moves more towards an organistic one, where bits are not broken down for individual analysis only but where a synthesis is attempted as well, and where a holistic view needs to...
Published on 18 Feb 2010 by AK

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3.0 out of 5 stars A book for the development of system ideas
This book is quite old now and shows some of its age. At the time the idea of system theory was new and invigorating although it still appears that the theory was not radically new by any means even then.
Bertalanffy discusses the idea of a system mainly through dynamical systems in his early chapters but also discusses important issues such as open systems,...
Published on 23 July 2011 by Frank Bierbrauer


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kuhn's theory in practice, 18 Feb 2010
By 
AK (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Paperback)
Let's get this out of the way first - I really like and enjoy both the book and the principles behind it. The idea of a general system theory (GST), which transcends the mechanistic worldview and moves more towards an organistic one, where bits are not broken down for individual analysis only but where a synthesis is attempted as well, and where a holistic view needs to be taken for a comprehensive understanding of a system are all beyod reproach.

The author shows examples of some general systemic principles, which apply in vastly different fields of science, and which while similar in principle, were derived largely independently. These should form the basis of GST as a discipline.

On top of that, the book has several other endearing and interesting characteristics. Von Bertalanffy was certainly aware off and mentions Kuhn's ideas quite a bit. A specific element to be found throughout the book shows how painfully aware the author is of the implications of Kuhn's work - basically that if a theory does not hit the Zeitgeist, it will vanish irrespective of its superior explanatory power, or at best languish somewhere out of the limelight. Namely the author is quite aware that the mechanistic view of things still holds sway (at the time of writing, and to a large extent 4 decades later as well) over Anglosaxon thought and in the related academic circles. At the time of writing there still was a very strong Germanic tradition, much more suited to the GST approach, which he tries to bind more closely (almost all the concepts he presents, he uses German words for, in order to cement the link). With time this tradition weakened somewhat and this was also reflected in the popularity of the theory.

The other problem is that of the writings being too complex and requiring too much background knowledge, education and thinking capacity to still be popular in the more modern, one minute manager type of world.

It is in many ways still a relevant guide of how to reform both science, our knowledge systems and ways of making decisions more broadly, however I think that it is now even further at the fringe than it was at the time von Bertalanffy first postulated it.

On a practical note, a criticism I find is the relative doggedness one needs to bring to reading it - even though the author had spent several decades living and working in Canada when this was written, the same overcomplex Germanic writing style is used, which in many ways unduly limited the readership the ideas finally managed to spread to. In hindsight some of the areas developed in very different directions from those the author deemed necessary or most promising as well (gestalt psychology), making some aspects of the book a bit dated, when it is read now.

Irrespective of that, I think it is a highly valuable contribution to the intellectual fabric of the 20th century and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in cybernetics, holistic thinking, systemic thinking, system dynamics or control theory.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant, 19 Oct 2009
By 
Andrew Dalby "ardalby" (oxford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Paperback)
Bertalanffy was so far ahead of his time. He first developed his System Theory approach before the second world war and this book brings together all of his ideas. This edition was written in 1968 shortly before his death. It is at times quite a technical work and sometimes the authors style can be a little grating (he does not forget to say how he invented the entire field multiple times), but it is amazing that such significant work was done so long ago.

If you are interested in Systems Biology then you should start here as it contains many of the ideas that we are only now rediscovering.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Foundation text on "systems theory", 26 Mar 2014
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This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Paperback)
Like most books on systems, he devotes a mere two or three sentences on what is a system, or not a system.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A book for the development of system ideas, 23 July 2011
By 
Frank Bierbrauer (Manchester, Lancashire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Paperback)
This book is quite old now and shows some of its age. At the time the idea of system theory was new and invigorating although it still appears that the theory was not radically new by any means even then.
Bertalanffy discusses the idea of a system mainly through dynamical systems in his early chapters but also discusses important issues such as open systems, teleology and the organism considered as a system. By no means does this remove the dogma of the reductionists but the whole idea can be incorporated within it by some adjustments and expansions of the original concept. In that sense it is still possible for a biologist to consider animals and plants as complex machines. Nothing in this book really forces anyone to onsider an alternative.

On the other hand his later chapters from chapter 8 onwards discuss truly fascinating questions in psychology and the study of language especially noting the work of Whorf. It is these last chapters which make the book interesting. In its day it would have been something that evoked interest and fascination but now its the as yet unexplord aspects of the study of man which remain as they have always been an enigma and a source of endless wonder.

A book for the development of system ideas
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A reference ..., 6 Jan 2011
This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Paperback)
Well, this book is utterly famous. It still contains very interesting information despite its age. Historically, it is also Von Bertalanffy trying to prove to the world that his theories are even better and more general than the humble cybernetics ...
However there is few formalism in the book, and some may find it vague.

Great book for the ones who already know the field. Still interesting for non experts, but there are probably better modern introductions to the subject.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars General systems theory, 4 Aug 2012
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This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Paperback)
What is the difference between general systems theory and what is nowadays described as systems theory? The basic model in both cases seem to be systems of differential equations, and where Bertalanffy have high hopes for how the study of such systems can provide insights that can be carried over for studying the dynamics of different empirical domains, this is exactly what applied systems theory does today. The only thing that struck me as confusing is how Bertalanffy uses the concept of isomorphism for discussing what seems to be structure of the empirical data rather than the mathematical models that are used for understanding them. The fact that many phenomena can be characterised by exponential growth or logistic growth means only that the mathematical models are isomorph in the trivial sense of being identical. Nevertheless, general systems theory or systems theory is no less important now than it was in 1968, and this book is an excellent introduction to parts of the history and philosophy behind it.
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9 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best intent to transcend the mechanistic worldview, 3 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (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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7 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it was the complate reference of general system theory, 24 Dec 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (Paperback)
General System theory is the main point of life. This approach teaches us the
real dynamics of world.As a manager, you can lead your organization with zero deficit.
As an engineer, you can produce a rational products.
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General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications
General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications by Ludwig Von Bertalanffy (Paperback - 1 Dec 2003)
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