PERSPECTIVES ON SCIENCE AND OTHER THEORIES

INTRODUCTION TO PERSPECTIVES ON SCIENCE AND OTHER THEORIES

Merrelyn Emery, 2018

Open Systems Theory (OST) is just a branch or area of science like any other and those who work with OST see themselves as scientists much like any other. As such, most practitioners have a lively interest in science more generally and a scientific approach to matters of interest as they arise.

REVIEW OF TOMKINS
AFFECT, IMAGERY, CONSCIOUSNESS

Fred Emery, 1962

Note from ME. Here we see another example of how Fred worked, persisting with what he considered to be an important task over time. He had immense respect for Silvan Tomkins’ work to which he constantly returned and referred, particularly his first two volumes. These notes below were originally four separate ones which I have put into one chronological document.

THE CASE STUDY METHOD

Fred Emery, 1964

The case study is a detailed examination of the characteristics of single objects or events.  When it concerns development it is a case history of life history. It may be contrasted with that other major method of observational study, the survey, which starts from an enumeration of the characteristics of all, or a representative sample of all of a given class of objects or events.

REINSTATEMENT OF EDITORIAL POLICY

Fred Emery, 1965

THE SPONSORING Institutes and the journal itself arose out of the stimulus given to social science by World War II, and the formative integrative effort of Kurt Lewin.  His untimely death was sorely felt, and the postwar developments in social science have by no means followed predictions.

TOWARD A PROPER ROLE FOR SCIENCE AND SCIENTIST: AN OUTLINE FOR ANZAAS PAPER 1973, PERTH

Fred Emery, 1973

Since at least the late 1930s we have been faced with the increasing escalation of science-based industry and the part of research and development in economic growth.  With the revolution in information technology and the burgeoning of the social sciences these trends have spilled over to most areas of organized social activity. It no longer shocks us that such a venerable organization as the Papacy might call on the services of McKinsey’.

O.R., SYSTEMS LEVEL AND THE ‘OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT’

Fred Emery, 1976

It is the contention of the author that O.R. has been steadily ‘painting itself into a corner’ and thereby reducing its utility.

IDEOLOGICAL OR IDEA-LOGICAL

Fred Emery, 1977

Note from ME: this little paper was written in the middle of an effort to rid the CCE of Open Systems Theory and the Emerys in particular. One prong of the attack was to label OST as an ‘ideology’, some sort of extremist or whacko belief system.

RESPONSIBILITY AND SOCIAL CHANGE
(THE CCE AND ITS INVOLVEMENT IN SOCIAL CHANGE)

Fred Emery and Merrelyn Emery, 1977

Note from ME: this little paper like that discussing the meanings of ‘ideology’ was part response to the protracted effort to denigrate and irretrievably damage our work. Many claims such as ideological and irresponsible were thrown around as a group within the ANU, and indeed the CCE, tried to wipe OST out of the Centre for Continuing Education. Fred wrote the first version which we revised and reissued the following year.

DISSIPATIVE STRUCTURE AND COMPLEX ENVIRONMENTS

Fred Emery, 1982

Prigogine and May have separately made contributions to the study of physical and biological organizations that have captured the imagination of those concerned with understanding social organization.  


In this note I with to examine whether this interest is justified beyond the natural curiosity that something happening in distant fields might be of interest.

LETTER TO AL RE SIGNS BECOMING SIGHS

Fred Emery, 1982

This is a letter from Fred Emery addressed to Al regarding Signs Becoming Sighs

REVIEW OF STRETTON “THE POLITICAL SCIENCE”:
A CRITIQUE OF FUNCTIONALISM

Fred Emery, 1982

Stretton’s case seems to be:


  1. that a significant part of sociology is still hung up on a scientistic program that is fruitless.


  1. That this sterile scientism is being forced into the students of sociology (p. 398).


  1. That a fruitful model is available to sociology.

MANAGING THE LEARNING – IN SEARCH CONFERENCES

Fred Emery, 1983

We spent two years, mid 1982-84, in Philadelphia working at Russ Ackoff’s Social Systems Sciences (S3) program at the Wharton School, Uni of Pennsylvania. This and other notes illustrate something of the growing divergence of views between Fred and Russ (ME).

REFLECTIONS ON MONDAY 12/28/83
“MORE INTERVENTIONS”

Fred Emery, 1983

The significance of the open cut and thrust of that engagement did not strike me until, at the close I overheard three elated male students saying (as best I recall) “I have not sat in on such a discussion of S3 practice in the four years I have been here!”, “Not in the seven years I have been around,”  “Yes, it was something.”

REGARDING THE PAPER BY RUSS ON “MESS MANAGEMENT”

Fred Emery, 1983

Russ’ critique of search conferences can hardly be based on their failure to address the five phases he identifies as the superior mode of ‘problem dissolution’ i.e. ‘design oriented planning’.  


Search conferences were consciously designed to work through these phases since the 1959 design for Bristol-Siddeley.  Plus, later, a sixth phase of generating a final report.

METAPHORS, ROOT METAPHORS AND SOCIAL SYSTEMS THINKING

Fred Emery, 1984

I want to come at my subject matter from consideration of the publishing history of On Purposeful Systems, touching, in passing on the publishing history of Gerd Sommerhoff’s Analytical Biology.

REFLECTION ON “HOW TO PUT AN ACTION RESEARCH STRATEGY INTO PRACTICE?”

Fred Emery, 1987

It is unclear as to just what empirical studies are being referred to here.
Clearly (1.1) the reference is to work conducted in the Norwegian tradition. Since there have been few detailed empirical reports of field experiments in Norway the reader must be inclined to believe that the prime reference is to the set of studies reported by Thorsrud and Emery in 1970.
If this be so then the gist of the introduction is that it is no longer appropriate to follow that model of action research.

LETTER TO PER: DEVELOPMENT IN NORWAY

Fred Emery, 1987

This is a letter exchange from Fred Emery addressed to Per regarding the development in Norway.

LETTER TO ROBERT KLEINER

Fred Emery, 1988

This is a letter exchange from Fred Emery addressed to Robert Kleiner

SALES FORCE INCENTIVES BY G. HOLMES & N. SMITH
A REVIEW BY F.E. EMERY

Fred Emery, 1988

It is understood that this book is directed at Sales Managers. It is assumed that Sales Managers usually arrive at this position after a career in sales and hence we can expect a reasonable level of general education and verbal fluency. If this assumption is correct then tertiary education is not to be expected, but they probably manage easily with the level of exposition to be found in Time and The Bulletin and are familiar with the ideas about management are in good currency in those magazines.

JAQUES' CONCEPT OF REQUISITE ORGANIZATION

Fred Emery, 1990

Jaques takes a hard line on work organization.

His basic questions for organizational design are,

  • what work really requires doing ?

  • what people, with what capabilities, are needed to do the work ?

  • what relationships do people need to form in order to get the work done ?

ACTION RESEARCH

Fred Emery, 1990

A great deal of the scientific work that I have done is what was termed "Action Research". The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations was at the forefront in developing this field of Action Research in the post-war years. We went to considerable lengths to ensure that this research was defined so as to conform, as close as possible, to the accepted logic of scientific experimentation.

LETTER TO SA WHEELAN RE ADVANCES IN FIELD THEORY

Fred Emery, 1990

This is a letter exchange between Fred Emery and Susan A. Wheelan regarding Advances in Field Theory.

THE SEARCH CONFERENCE IN THE USA TODAY: CLARIFYING SOME CONFUSIONS

Merrelyn Emery, 1994

It appears that there is a new generation of people interested in methods of bringing people together to make change. Unfortunately many of these people have been educated particularly in American based social science which can be misleading.  In this article I directly compare the Search Conference with the Future Search. Those interested in effective methods may find this comparison illuminating.

NOTES ON CIVILIZATION

Merrelyn Emery, 2009

These notes were written in response to discussion and queries from colleagues as to what really constitutes a 'civilization'. This analysis shows that our Western cultures really do not qualify as civilizations.  Unfortunately since that time, we have seen epidemics of mental illness and other distresses which can only reinforce this conclusion and help hasten moves towards the alternative base for a culture.

OPEN SYSTEMS IS ALIVE AND WELL

Merrelyn Emery

This paper was written for and presented to a special symposium on sociotechnical systems and organizational design at a time when many within the North American social science community were becoming aware of the short comings of their methods and practices more generally. It contains an analysis of the North American variant and presents the adaptive alternative.  Some references have been updated.

THE EVOLUTION OF OPEN SYSTEMS THEORY

Merrelyn Emery, 2022

The Evolution of Open Systems Theory is a revised and updated version of the paper that was published in 2000.  As well as accurately documenting the main advances in OST, including that component of it which has traditionally gone by the name of sociotechnical systems, deriving in part from Lewin's work on systemic structures, it shows it was a completely separate stream of work from that derived from the other side of Lewin's work, that which was fully within the closed systems Human Relations school. These streams did not come together in any major way until Weisbord unsuccessfully tried to integrate them in the 1980s.

INTEGRATING TWO-BY-TWO

Fred Emery, 1986

The Integrating Two-by-Two paper is a critique of two attempts to simplify and trivialize Emery & Trist's theory of the extended social field with its environmental types. The letter to David Wadley continues, and takes this discussion further with another example of the same phenomenon.

INTEGRATING TWO-BY-TWO: LETTER TO DR. DAVID WADLEY

Fred Emery, 1987

The Integrating two by two paper is a critique of two attempts to simplify and trivialize Emery & Trist's theory of the extended social field with its environmental types. The letter to David Wadley continues, and takes this discussion further with another example of the same phenomenon.

CONTRADICTION AND CONTEXTUALISM - AN EXPLORATION

Fred Emery, 1988

This is a talk Fred gave to somebody about the relationship between some of the old Marxist thinkers, Peirce and the contextualist OST. He contrasts these with some of the more inadequate formulations such as those of Bertalanffy and Prigogine.

PSYCHOLOGISTS AND THE MAJOR PROBLEMS OF SOCIETY

Fred Emery, 1988

This is as much an analysis of the role of economics and its practitioners as it is of psychologists as Fred outlines the major issues involved in the manifest inadequacies of much of what is called 'social science' in even addressing our problems, let alone doing anything about them.

ECONOMICS AS A SYSTEMS SCIENCE

Fred Emery, 1996

This is a particularly biting critique of modern economics and the authors of the 1995 book 'The Crisis of Vision in Modern Economic Thought".  It is one more in a series of notes Fred wrote about the failure of economics and other so called social sciences to get out of their ivory towers, correct their own mistaken assumptions and start to engage with real life problems.

THE NEW ECONOMICS

Fred Emery, 1997

These are notes Fred dictated only a few days before he died. In them he briefly outlines the fundamental problems with today's economics and the requisite changes that must occur.