The Existence, Nature and Value of General Systems Theory (GST*)

  • David Rousseau
  • Jennifer Wilby
  • Julie Billingham
  • Stefan Blachfellner
Part of the Translational Systems Sciences book series (TSS, volume 13)


The founders of the general systems movement envisaged the development of a theory articulating and inter-relating the principles underlying the systemic behaviours of all kinds of concrete systems. We call this theory GST* (“g-s-t-star”) to disambiguate it from other uses of the term “GST” prevalent in the literature. GST* is still radically underdeveloped, but its nature can be analysed. GST* is a formal theory, because the principles of GST* would apply across all kinds of systems, that is, GST* would predict behaviours and structures of systems qua systems, without regard for the kind of system under consideration, and hence it is neutral with respect to ontology.

There is a long-standing controversy within the systems community about whether a GST* exists in principle, whether it would be of practical value if it did, and how its principles might be discovered. In this chapter we argue by analogy from the history of science that if a GST* could be developed it would be highly valuable, and show that its existence is predicated on the assumption of a philosophical framework called the General Systems Worldview (GSW). We present an argument that development of the General Systems Worldview can guide us to the discovery of general systems principles for a GST*, and that together GST* and the GSW can ground the development of a powerful General Systems Transdiscipline, now called “General Systemology”.


General systems theory GST GST* Systems philosophy General systems worldview General Systemology 


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Copyright information

© David Rousseau 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Rousseau
    • 1
  • Jennifer Wilby
    • 2
  • Julie Billingham
    • 1
  • Stefan Blachfellner
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Systems PhilosophyAddlestoneUK
  2. 2.Centre for Systems Studies, University of HullKingston upon HullUK
  3. 3.Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems ScienceViennaAustria

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