Self-Referential Social Systems

  • Frederick L. Bates
Part of the Contemporary Systems Thinking book series (CST)


Self-referential sociocultural systems that are dependent on learning for supplying the rules that pattern behavior consist entirely of symbolically encoded information. They are therefore intangible and ideational in character. They are systems in the sense that they are bounded, internally structured entities, comprised of elements that are cross-referenced, interconnected, and internally integrated in such a way that one element gives meaning to the others. When the cultural system is activated, the various elements comprising the structure of the system interact in the sense that they are expressed in the cobehavior of the actors practicing the rules. They are systems in the same sense that a language such as English may be regarded as a system. A language contains a vocabulary in which words take on meaning only in relation to each other and in terms of their use according to a set of phonetic, syntactical, and grammatical rules. This vocabulary and its associated rules of grammar and syntax, in interaction with their environment, generates the enormous variety of meaningful utterances observed as actual overt speech. Because linguistic rules form an integrated set of bounded, interrelated rules, a language, itself, may be regarded as a self-referential system.


Internal Rule Internal Order Total Culture Ecological Field Modern Industrial Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick L. Bates
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of GeorgiaAthensGeorgia

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