Managing Complexity and Change in Human Systems: The Contributions of Living Systems Theory and Social Entropy Theory -- Kenneth Bailey, August 3, 2002

46th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), Shanghai, P.R. China, August 2-6, 2002.

Saturday, August 3, 2002, 2:40 p.m.

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. These should not be viewed as official transcripts of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. These notes have been contributed by David Ing ( at the IBM Advanced Business Institute ( ).

Introduction by Mike Jackson

Professor Ken Bailey, professor of sociology, UCLA

In the 1800s, society was less complicated.

Now in the 21st century, the society is complex, but the sociology book is not complex.

Three parts

A book, Methods of Social Research, 4th edition, translated into Chinese into 1987.

How to study complexity in the whole society.

Part 2: Living Systems Theory, James Grier Miller

It's good for studying complexity, because it's a very complex approach.

Two basic parts:

Vertical hierarchy has 8 levels: cell, organ, organism, individual, group / organization, community, society, supranational (more than one nation, e.g. United Nations, since not all of society is in the world system)

Dr. Miller talked about how living systems theory relates to non-living systems (although he didn't write about them).

20 subsystems, all complex.

Thus, 20 subsystems x 8 levels = 160 different categories that can be used to analyze living systems.

An example of how this works with non-living systems.

What about studying change?

Third part of talk: Social Entropy Theory

The problem we face in ISSS is that we want to study complex objects, but have to do it in 30 minutes!


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