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Title: Finalization, cybernetics and the possibility of a social science
Author: Stokes, P. A.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2003
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The discipline of sociology was constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries on conceptual foundations inspired by mechanics and thermodynamics, realms of organized simplicity and disorganized complexity respectively. The social world, on the other hand, is a realm of organized complexity. Sociology has, therefore, been erected on sets of inappropriate fundamental ideas and is consequently a discipline in crisis. It is a discipline that cannot quite get to grips with its subject matter. 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 thesis suggests that the problem with all such previous attempts is that they considered 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 science suggests where deep theoretical, foundational work may well be achieved for a realm in the abstruse 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 and problems of an apparent 'lack of fit' arise. It has been found that a group of intermediating concepts are necessary to draw the two domains together in a workable fit. This has been called a process of 'finalization of science'. The burden of this dissertation therefore has been to construct a finalization process that would effect the fruitful union of cybernetics and sociology. To this end it is observed that social organizing is the outcome when the concerted control attempts when two or more people become intertwined through their emergent interdependence. Thus the concept of social organization is proffered as the generic candidate of a finalized version of cybernetic control that is amenable for sociological usurpation. Specifically, it is proposed that Stafford Beer's Viable System Model (VSM) is the appropriate finalized form of this concept.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available