on 13 March 2000
It is unbelievable that this masterpiece has been out of print for so long. I have been looking for a copy for some years, having eventually and reluctantly had to return a loan copy. I am delighted that it is available again.
Organised as a collection of relatively short essays, this has a legitimate claim to be the outstanding book of the 20th century for anyone interested in change, systems thinking, ecology, epistemology, organisations, therapy and more. Be warned - it can be very hard in places, but the effort is worth it. 'Form, Substance and Difference', 'Conscious Purpose versus Nature' and 'The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication' are absolutely central texts for anyone considering how we need to respond to the current world crisis. Other key papers include 'The cybernetics of "Self": A theory of alchoholism' and 'Social Planning and the Concept of Deutero Learning'. If you work in the field of Organisational Development you will probably be familiar with some of the content through the many writers who have built on Bateson's work. Fritjof Capra writes about him a great deal. The original is best though.
The fact that it is back in print gives me hope.
on 24 September 2011
Steps to an Ecology of Mind is simply a masterpiece. In this collection of seemingly disparate essays, Bateson takes the reader on a journey that connects diverse patterns and offers an insight into a means of thinking systemically about ourselves, our relationships to each other and to the environment.
I first read this book long ago, following up the ideas of psychiatrist R D Laing, because it contains a chapter headed 'Double Bind 1969'. This idea became central to Laing's thinking about schizophrenia, in 'The Politics of the Family', and is also referred to in Theodore Lidz's ' The Origin and Treatment of Schizophrenic Disorders'. The term 'double bind' was also used in the context of schizophrenia by Jules Henry, in 'Pathways to Madness' which interestingly is copyrighted 1965, which predates 'Ecology of Mind', though I have a later edition so I don't know whether the text was added too later. I think the concept of double bind is vital to understanding distress in society, and it bothers me that the ideas of all these writers are largely ignored by today's psychiatrists. Other chapters include 'Epidemiology of Schizophrenia', 'Towards a theory of Schizophrenia', and 'The Group Dynamics of Schizophrenia'. A very important book, and it's great that it is back in print.