International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.



1 )"The differentiation of one half from the other" (G. BATESON, 1973, p.353)

2) "A union of unequal opposites, the coexistence of two different, opposite poles in a unity" (H. SABELLI & L. CARLSON-SABELLI – 1992, p.660).

The SABELLIs view asymmetry, the general result of symmetry-breaking, as the fundamental cosmic order in relation to the temporal flow of energy, as "Whereas mechanics (classic, statistical, relativistic, or quantic) postulates stationary and reversible processes, thermodynamics and dynamics postulate that processes asymmetrically tend to attractors" (p.661). Thus asymmetry is "imprinted in the form of every object" (Ibid.).

H. SABELLI observes that "this concept of cosmic asymmetry has been validated in our century, beginning with the discovery of the non-conservation of parity in beta decay, the optical rotation of atoms, the string theory of matter, the importance of highly asymmetric, nonequilibrium states in the thermodynamics of open processes, the asymmetric preponderance of matter over anti-matter, the time asymmetric collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics, the asymmetry of crystals of which rocks are made, the violation of gauge symmetry by superfluids, the lack of symmetry in magnets and fundamental biological asymmetries". Asymmetric structures lead to asymmetric processes, and in turn the asymmetry of processes becomes imprinted as structural asymmetry" (1991, 219-20)

G. BATESON writes about the step from bilateral symmetry to asymmetry.(in living beings): "… either the asymmetry must be achieved by a random process or it must be achieved by information received from the outside" (p.373).

In both cases, positional value of the receiving element becomes very significant.

Asymmetry acts as a factor of organization and complexification because it corresponds to distinctions, leads to complementarities and opens more possibilities for differentiation.

This had already been recognized in the 19th. century by L. PASTEUR and well explained in 1942 by Ch. LAVILLE, who constructed a theory of fields asymmetry.

Contemporary ecologists, as R. MARGALEF for instance (1982), also admit that asymmetric exchange between living systems (as in commensalism and symbiosis) leads to an in crease of their global complexity.

M. HAAS established a typology of asymetries.(1967). He distinguished:

temporal – spatial – kinetic - entropic and allocational asymmetries.

Within the temporal asymmetries he signaled (among others, which seem less significant): - fluctuations - tides - discontinuities

Within spatial asymmetries he mentions (also among others, more specific of social and political situations): - segregation - centralization

His description of kinetic asymmetries seems too restricted to these same social and political situations. It makes sense however to distinguish, for instance: - mobility at different rates - immobility

As to kinetic asymmetries, they seem quite basically related to different levels of entropy production in different parts of a system.

As to allocational asymmetries, HAAS' classification, as related to socio-political systems is difficult to transfer to other types of systems because it implies values of different kinds.

Trend (Asymptotic)


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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