cybernetic hierarchy

Cybernetic hierarchyclick for a larger image
Fig. 8 Cybernetic hierarchy. all types, whether these be mechanical servomechanisms (e.g. a thermostatically controlled central-heating system), biological organisms or SOCIAL SYSTEMS. The assumption is that all such systems regulate their relation to an external environment by the operation of a . feedback loop, in which changes in the environment are communicated to the system in a manner which brings about a corresponding adjustment of the system to maintain a steady state, or other state appropriate to the effective functioning or survival of the system (see also CYBERNETIC HIERARCHY). Cybernetics and cybernetic analogies were in vogue in the 1950s and 60s, but subsequently they have suffered from a reaction against functionalist thinking and SCIENTISM in the social sciences. See also SYSTEMS THEORY, STRUCTURAL-FUNCTIONALISM.

cybernetic hierarchy

the notion that social systems, like animal organisms or any complex systems, are governed by a hierarchical network of communications and regulating mechanisms, and that in social systems this means that cultural VALUES and the STATE and government play a decisive role in shaping and maintaining the system. It is in this context, for example, that Talcott PARSONS refers to the political subsystem of the social system as involving ‘goal attainment’.

Parsons sees social life as organized in terms of two interrelated hierarchies (see Fig. 8):

  1. a four-fold hierarchy running from culture, social systems, personality systems, to the biological organism;
  2. a hierarchy within the social system, running from ‘values’ and ‘norms’ to ‘collectivities’ and ‘roles’. See also CYBERNETICS, SOCIAL SYSTEM, STRUCTURAL-FUNCTIONALISM; compare CULTURAL MATERIALISM.
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