Dis/agreement in participatory organizations: low theory and democratic governance in cybernetics

  • Wed 15 Mar 23

    12:00 - 00:00

  • Online

    join this seminar

  • Event speaker

    James Fox, University of Essex

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Centre for Commons Organising, Values Equalities and Resilience (COVER) Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Centre for Commons Organising Values Equalities and Resilience

  • Contact details

    COVER Research Centre

The Centre for Commons Organising, Values Equalities and Resilience (COVER) welcome you to join this online seminar with guest speaker James Fox from the University of Essex.

Seminar summary

Presentation by James Fox on his research into cybernetics and alternative organizational forms, with invited participation and response from people from the collaborators he has been working with

This project explores the relationship between cybernetic theory and non-managerial forms of organization, consider in detail the implications of organizational cybernetics on non-hierarchical organizations. I argue that Alternative Organization Studies requires a more stable, scientific grounding; and that cybernetic theory is an appropriate language through which to understand these varied organizational structures.

In particular it focuses on the work of Stafford Beer, whose development of organizational cybernetics provides the theoretical basis upon which my project builds. Despite the fact that Beer’s work has deep theoretical resonances with non-hierarchical organizational ideas, his work does largely assume some role for managers and management, particularly in the meta-systemic control of large organizations. This leads me to ask: can Beer’s theoretical work be understood and developed without the use (or at least presupposition) of mangers and management?
This has led me to develop a research design which investigates the structure of organizational processes at work in three non-hierarchical organizations. I will explore the relationship between these organizations and cybernetic theory, particularly how they regulate meta-systemic functions and the effects of Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety. I will use the data this project produces to develop an understanding of non-managerial, non-hierarchical cybernetic control in an organization, which I will call ‘organizational democracy’. This conception of organizational democracy can be understood as an application of cybernetic theory to participatory organizational design.


How to attend this seminar

We welcome you to join this seminar online on Wednesday 15 March 2023 at 12pm.

This seminar is free to attend with no need to register in advance.


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