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Sustainability, Systems and Meaning

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Sustainability calls for the globe as a relevant unit of analysis, and systems thinking is an appropriate theoretical framework for this task. Yet systems thinking is employed in two contrary ways. The 'accommodating' systems approach is closely linked to the classical concept of science. It bases its credibility on the exclusion of values or any other subjective elements. The 'creative' way explicitly requires a subjectively recognised leading principle, according to which the system organises itself. Following the 'creative' approach, the paper argues that sustainability should be interpreted as a quest for conscious adoption of a global systems identity. It is this assigned system purpose that gives single actions and judgements within systems their meaning. Since subjective elements will always remain antagonistic in any classical approach, only a 'creative' approach offers possibilities for integrating cybernetic systems thinking, giving rise to a concept of systems guided by meaning.

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Keywords: artificial outside position; meaning; sustainability; systems identity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-08-01

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2016) of 1.279.
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