Understanding Humans and Organisations

Petia Sice, Ian French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


There is a large body of literature by the Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, usually referred to as Autopoietic Theory. This theory describes the dynamics of living systems; dealing with cognition as a biological phenomenon. The theory, however, has found far wider application than may be suggested from its biological roots. This is because the theory builds from its cognitive base to generate implications for epistemology, communication and social systems theory. Since, in essence, there is no discontinuity between what is social and what is human, from the perspective of their biological roots. This paper presents some of the key elements of autopoietic theory and explores their application to organisations and their management. The topics considered are: i) the epistemological qualities of our knowledge and its relevance in understanding organisation; ii) human enterprises as autonomous selforganising systems; iii) the meaning of communication and the role of language in organisations. The paper also describes a new approach to organisational inquiry. This brings together, in a co-determinate fashion, a pragmatic attitude to human experience and language, and the value of theoretical insight.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-66
JournalPhilosophy of Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


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