The purpose of this paper is to clarify the concept of organizational closure as developed by Stafford Beer in his viable systems model, defined as System 5.
The author refers to his experiences of multi‐stakeholder platforms and confronts them with the original texts of Stafford Beer. He takes the stance of a reflective practitioner.
The identity function, defined as organizational closure, only can be embodied at the boundary of a system, defined by an observer. Identities are not essential characteristics but changing attributions by different observers. Multiple identities are the norm.
The author develops the required characteristics of representatives participating in the organizational closure or System 5 activities.
The author gives an alternative way of thinking about identity different from the mainstream essentialist way of defining identity. He explores the consequences of this way of thinking for governance and governing bodies. He clarifies in this way the fundamental tension between participative and representative democracy.
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