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Article
Publication date: 17 April 2007

Paul A. Stokes

This paper seeks to argue that sociology is in need of reconstruction on a theoretical and conceptual foundation of cybernetics, specifically, managerial cybernetics and…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to argue that sociology is in need of reconstruction on a theoretical and conceptual foundation of cybernetics, specifically, managerial cybernetics and to show how this hitherto unsuccessful task might be brought about.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach is one of a rigorous and deep querying of the reasons for the lack of successful fit heretofore between sociology and cybernetics. By taking a critical, historical and philosophical approach to the development of sciences it opens possibilities for the reconstruction of sociology as a “new science” based on the foundation of cybernetics, specifically the managerial cybernetics of Stafford Beer.

Findings

The work argues that the appropriate conceptual foundation for the social sciences is the realm of communication and control, ideas that were given a rigorous formulation in cybernetics, information theory and systems thinking since the 1940s. Many people have seen the prima facie appropriateness of these ideas for the study of human society and numerous attempts have been made to apply them. Almost, all of these efforts have been failures, at least from a sociological point of view. The paper suggests that the problem with all such previous attempts is that they consisted of too direct an application of cybernetics to sociology, entailing a metaphoric reduction that threatened the intellectual integrity of the discipline. Work in the history of sciences suggests that, whereas deep theoretical, foundational work may well be achieved for a realm in the abstract, so to speak, it is when attempts are made to apply these results to more phenomenal domains, to which in principle they are deemed appropriate and relevant, that problems of an apparent “lack of fit” arise. It has been found that a group of intermediating concepts is necessary to draw the two domains together in a workable fit. This process has been called “finalization of science”.

Practical implications

Of immediate value is the reconstruction of sociology as a cybernetically informed science of society that actually delivers theoretical, analytical, research and practical results.

Originality/value

The paper represents a highly original synthesis drawn from the history and philosophy of science development to yield immediate and useful results.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 36 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

Keywords

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