cybernetic hierarchythe 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):
- a four-fold hierarchy running from culture, social systems, personality systems, to the biological organism;
- 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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000