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Article
Publication date: 1 January 1974

V.V. CHAVCHANIDZE

A general theory of conceptual systems (GCST) is developed, in which the concept of systems is introduced not a priori or theoretically, but by means of a rigorous…

Abstract

A general theory of conceptual systems (GCST) is developed, in which the concept of systems is introduced not a priori or theoretically, but by means of a rigorous procedure, supported by experimental knowledge of these or other system realization forms (so‐called “realization” and “trajectories”). This is the stage of an inductive construction of computable concepts, i.e. “concepts”. “Concept” is presented in the form of a function of discrete variables, one part of which is known (essential variables), while the other part is independent (non‐essential variables). The presence of “concept” allows one to construct new, not yet realized “trajectories”. This is the stage of the deductive conclusion. The general principles of GCST construction on the basis of an artificial intelligence program system are formulated. This approach excludes widespread methods of a priori construction of system theories (e.g. in the “theory of usefulness”, the “study of operations”).

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Kybernetes, vol. 3 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 3 October 2016

Steven E. Wallis and Vladislav Valentinov

The complexity of the modern world calls for the increasingly complex (i.e. containing more concepts) and systemic (i.e. containing more causal connections between the…

Abstract

Purpose

The complexity of the modern world calls for the increasingly complex (i.e. containing more concepts) and systemic (i.e. containing more causal connections between the concepts) conceptual systems, such as theories and mental models which may exist at varying levels of complexity and systemicity. Yet, these systems are often found to be impervious to data and counter-arguments. Examples of such disputes are found in arguments over global warming and in the many debates between political groups. The purpose of this paper is to review the reasons behind this imperviance and identify ways to move forward.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper brings together the insights from the burgeoning science of conceptual systems as well as selected ideas from the moral philosophies of Niklas Luhmann and Jürgen Habermas. The science of conceptual systems is utilized to unearth the cognitive reasons for the imperviance of conceptual systems, while the work of Luhmann and Habermas is brought to bear on the moral reasons.

Findings

The most salient cognitive reasons for this imperviance are shown to be related to the questionable validity of data, the situational inappropriateness of conceptual systems, as well as their low complexity and systemicity. The effect of the moral content of conceptual systems on their imperviance is ambivalent. For Luhmann, moral communication may enhance imperviance and induce conflicts. In contrast, the Habermasian discourse ethics may counteract imperviance by stimulating the rational moral argumentation.

Originality/value

The science of conceptual systems is uniquely positioned to analyze the pervasive problem of their imperviance, especially if this problem is aggravated by moral reasons.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 45 no. 9
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 10 December 2020

Fadwa Chaker, Samuel K. Bonsu, Majid K. El Ghaib and Diego Vazquez-Brust

The instrumental-normative divide that has historically characterized approaches to societal sustainability has also resulted in a rift between underlying mental models…

Abstract

Purpose

The instrumental-normative divide that has historically characterized approaches to societal sustainability has also resulted in a rift between underlying mental models and methods destined to address the issue. This separation makes our understanding and tackling of the present global ecological problems only limited and ineffective. The present work aims to draw on theoretical background to develop a conceptual framework for transitioning to integrated corporate sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing inspiration from Luhmann’s (1995) theory of social systems, we consider the instrumental (hard) and normative (soft) methods (Jackson 2019) for corporate sustainability as “conceptual systems” that derive much of traditional social systems’ attributes. These systems are autopoietic, complexity-reducing and functionally differentiated. Following Luhmann’s philosophical grounding, we suggest that integrating the two systems of hard and soft methods boils down to constraining both systems’ internal complexity by imposing limitations on their operational structures. This translates into a decodification–recodification process whereby new methods emerge as a combination of initially disconnected structures.

Findings

The proposed conceptual integration framework is applied to the case of the Sustainability Balanced Scorecard (SBSC) which has been recently subject to inconclusive controversy. Our work demonstrates that redesigning the SBSC’s architecture following the presented framework leads to embracing complexity, tensions and conflict all the while offering a systematic approach for properly identifying and quantifying cause–effect relationships. Moreover, the proposed framework scores high in Complexity and Systemicity measures, making it both durable and practically useful. More generally, this work drives home the point that an integrated approach to sustainability management is not only important but also feasible and theoretically durable.

Research limitations/implications

Theoretically, the present work underscores the contribution of systems theory, and particularly the Luhmannian perspective, to transcending some of the most salient “divides” in approaches to societal sustainability. The decodification–recodification process not only enables integrating two distinct conceptual systems, but it also transforms the divide into an opportunity to gain a fresher perspective on one of the most challenging issues of our time. This process may demand, however, some adjustments as we move across various function systems, which requires solid knowledge and understanding of the underlying “codes” that define the systems subject to integration.

Practical implications

This work implies that integration of varied and sometimes outwardly opposed function systems can and must be carried out to achieve larger societal impact. With respect to the illustrated case, the emerging dynamic SBSC offers a viable strategic planning platform whereby managers and stakeholders can concurrently define, forecast and adjust the societal strategy that maximizes triple bottom-line indicators and sustainable development impact.

Social implications

Providing decision and policymakers with integrated sustainability management approaches and instruments will have a direct benefit on enhancing the way systems, and large corporations in particular, treat and deal with nature and human beings.

Originality/value

We propose that proper integration of multiple function systems, employing integrative, unbiased and structured methodologies, can be decisive in challenging current practices in sustainability management and in providing informed guidance for making the high-stake decisions needed in the transition towards sustainable development of business and society.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 12 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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Article
Publication date: 15 January 2020

Steffen Roth, Vladislav Valentinov and Lars Clausen

This paper aims to probe the limits of the empirical-normative divide as a conceptual framework in business ethics.

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to probe the limits of the empirical-normative divide as a conceptual framework in business ethics.

Design/methodology/approach

A systems theory perspective debunks this divide as a false distinction that cannot do justice to the conceptual complexity of the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) scholarship.

Findings

Drawing on the systems-theoretic ideas of Niklas Luhmann and the “Laws of Form” by George Spencer Brown, the paper shows that the divide may be dissected into a four-cell matrix constituted by two other distinctions-descriptive vs prescriptive and categorical vs hypothetical-the latter of which was seminally suggested by Donaldson and Preston (1995).

Practical implications

The emerging four-cell matrix is shown to centrally embrace the multiplicity of normative, empirical and instrumental approaches to CSR. This multiplicity is exemplified by the application of these approaches to the phenomenon of CSR communication.

Social implications

A more general implication of the proposed argument for the field of business ethics is in tracing the phenomena of moral diversity and moral ambivalence back to the regime of functional differentiation as the distinguishing feature of the modern society. This argument drives home the point that economic operations are as ethical or unethical as political operations, and that both economic and political perspectives on ethical issues are as important or unimportant as are religious, artistic, educational or scientific perspectives.

Originality/value

In contrast to the empirical-normative divide, the perspective is shown to centrally embrace the multiplicity of normative, empirical and instrumental approaches to CSR.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 11 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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Article
Publication date: 9 July 2021

Xintian Tu, Chris Georgen, Joshua A. Danish and Noel Enyedy

This paper aims to show how collective embodiment with physical objects (i.e. props) support young children’s learning through the construction of liminal blends that…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to show how collective embodiment with physical objects (i.e. props) support young children’s learning through the construction of liminal blends that merge physical, virtual and conceptual resources in a mixed-reality (MR) environment..

Design/methodology/approach

Building on Science through Technology Enhanced Play (STEP), we apply the Learning in Embodied Activity Framework to further explore how liminal blends can help us understand learning within MR environments. Twenty-two students from a mixed first- and second-grade classroom participated in a seven-part activity sequence in the STEP environment. The authors applied interaction analysis to analyze how student’s actions performed with the physical objects helped them to construct liminal blends that allowed key concepts to be made visible and shared for collective sensemaking.

Findings

The authors found that conceptually productive liminal blends occurred when students constructed connections between the resources in the MR environment and coordinated their embodiment with props to represent new understandings.

Originality/value

This study concludes with the implications for how the design of MR environment and teachers’ facilitation in MR environment supports students in constructing liminal blends and their understanding of complex science phenomena.

Details

Information and Learning Sciences, vol. 122 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-5348

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Book part
Publication date: 16 December 2017

John B. Davis

In his 1931 unpublished “Surplus Product” manuscript Sraffa used an open–closed distinction to explain the relationship between the “economic field” and distribution. This…

Abstract

In his 1931 unpublished “Surplus Product” manuscript Sraffa used an open–closed distinction to explain the relationship between the “economic field” and distribution. This chapter examines Sraffa’s thinking in this regard, and shows how it allowed him to resolve a problem he encountered in his early objectivist representation of commodity production in economies with a surplus. The chapter argues that Sraffa adopted a view different from Bertalanffy’s general systems theory understanding of open and closed systems developed around the same time in such a way as to address the specific nature of economics. The chapter compares two related interpretations of Sraffa’s thinking in regard to the open–closed distinction developed by Arena and Ginzburg, and also addresses how Sraffa’s thinking regarding open and closed systems compares with similar thinking of Wittgenstein and Gramsci. The concluding discussion contrasts Sraffa’s causal reasoning with mainstream economics’ ceteris paribus method of causal reasoning.

Details

Including a Symposium on New Directions in Sraffa Scholarship
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-539-9

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Article
Publication date: 6 November 2018

Steven E. Wallis and Bernadette Wright

Current approaches to understanding and resolving the problem of poverty have not proved effective. This paper aims to provide a new explanation of why we have failed and…

Abstract

Purpose

Current approaches to understanding and resolving the problem of poverty have not proved effective. This paper aims to provide a new explanation of why we have failed and what must be done to improve our understanding, decision-making, action and success.

Design/methodology/approach

Integrative propositional analysis is used to evaluate and synthesize theoretical and practical perspectives on poverty from five academic disciplines and five disparate organizations.

Findings

Individual theoretical perspectives were found to have low levels of complexity and systemicity.

Research limitations/implications

Clear research directions are shown to accelerate improvements in understanding. Additionally, results may provide a useful guide for developing computer models of poverty.

Practical implications

The causal knowledge map of synthesized theories suggests where practice may be relatively effective and where unanticipated consequences are more likely to occur.

Social implications

Policy decision-making to address the problem of poverty is not likely to lead to successful resolution. Thus, poverty is likely to continue until we develop a more systemic understanding.

Originality/value

This interdisciplinary paper provides a new structural perspective on why we have not been able to solve the poverty problem – and shows how far we have yet to go to reach success.

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Article
Publication date: 25 October 2018

Steffen Roth, Vladislav Valentinov, Jari Kaivo-oja and Léo-Paul Dana

Are entrepreneurial opportunities discovered or created? The debate around this question has crucial implications for successful organizational change management in the…

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Abstract

Purpose

Are entrepreneurial opportunities discovered or created? The debate around this question has crucial implications for successful organizational change management in the business world. The present conceptual paper transcends this debate by embedding the concept of the entrepreneurial opportunities within a Luhmannian systems – theoretical framework which accentuates the unique role of organization and change in the age of functional differentiation. The purpose of this paper is to show how the strategic navigation of the borders between function systems such as politics, science, education, religion, art, or, of course, economy leads to the discovery or creation new opportunities for both business and social entrepreneurship.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper combines Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social differentiation with Kim and Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy. The key argument is that the alternative regimes of social differentiation, such as segmentation, centralization, stratification, and functional differentiation, create distinct pools of entrepreneurial opportunities to be discovered, created, and exploited by adequate business models. (Business) Organizations, therefore, need to strategically adjust the amount of attention they devote to the different forms of social differentiation. The argument is buttressed with illustrative examples of business models related to the regime of functional differentiation.

Findings

A paradoxical finding is that the multifunctional business models which explicitly draw on the value creation potential of the most recent form of social differentiation, functional differentiation, remain little known even though they infuse business organizations with a unique capacity of new venture discovery and creation in the modern society.

Originality/value

Multifunctional business models have so far remained unexplored in entrepreneurship theory and practice. This paper develops a first strategic approach to the discovery or creation of both multifunctional business models and a broader framework of multifunctional organization models.

Details

Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 31 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0953-4814

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Article
Publication date: 12 February 2020

Abla Chaouni Benabdellah, Asmaa Benghabrit and Imane Bouhaddou

In the era of industry 4.0, managing the design is a challenging mission. Within a dynamic environment, several disciplines have adopted the complex adaptive system (CAS…

Abstract

Purpose

In the era of industry 4.0, managing the design is a challenging mission. Within a dynamic environment, several disciplines have adopted the complex adaptive system (CAS) perspective. Therefore, this paper aims to explore how we may deepen our understanding of the design process as a CAS. In this respect, the key complexity drivers of the design process are discussed and an organizational decomposition for the simulation of the design process as CAS is conducted.

Design/methodology/approach

The proposed methodology comprises three steps. First, the complexity drivers of the design process are presented and are matched with those of CAS. Second, an analysis of over 111 selected papers is presented to choose the appropriate model for the design process from the CAS theory. Third, the paper provides methodological guidelines to develop an organizational decision support system that supports the complexity of the design process.

Findings

An analysis of the key drivers of design process complexity shows the need to adopt the CAS theory. In addition to that, a comparative analysis between all the organizational methodologies developed in the literature leads the authors to conclude that agent-oriented Software Process for engineering complex System is the appropriate methodology for simulating the design process. In this respect, a system requirements phase of the decision support system is conducted.

Originality/value

The originality of this paper lies in the fact of analysing the complexity of the design process as a CAS. In doing so, all the richness of the CAS theory can be used to meet the challenges of those already existing in the theory of the design.

Details

Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology , vol. 18 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1726-0531

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Article
Publication date: 25 September 2018

Vladislav Valentinov, Stefan Hielscher, Sebastian Everding and Ingo Pies

Public debates on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are strongly influenced by the nongovernmental organization (NGO)-led advocacy, most of which is harshly…

Abstract

Purpose

Public debates on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are strongly influenced by the nongovernmental organization (NGO)-led advocacy, most of which is harshly critical of genetic engineering. This advocacy has resulted in discourse failures marked by the disregard for the scientific consensus on the risks and benefits of GMOs. This paper aims to present a theoretical inquiry into this phenomenon.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on American institutionalism and Niklas Luhmann social systems theory, the paper explains these discourse failures in terms of the problematic relationship between institutions and technology.

Findings

Clarence Ayres would likely see these discourse failures as a form of “institutional resistance” to the progress of science and technology. In contrast, Marc Tool’s social value principle stresses the importance of democratic legitimation and public acceptance of new technologies, while being sensitive to the possibility of ideologically biased discourses. It is argued that the institutionalist understanding of the interplay between democracy, science and technology would benefit from a better account of Niklas Luhmann’s concept of “complexity reduction”.

Social implications

The study shows that some NGOs are powerful enough to actively shape, if not manipulate, public attitudes and sentiments against GMOs.

Originality/value

The case of the anti-GMO advocacy calls for a new conceptualization of how democracy, science and technology fit together.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 48 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

Keywords

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