Study Guide for answering Questions about the Grander Narratives of General Systems Theory, Open Systems Theory, and Quantum Systemicity Model

Prepared by David M. Boje

July 14 2014; Revised April 25, 2015

In-class discussion material to prepare you to answer the two questions within 24 hours of each class meeting:

Let's begin with some simple definitions:

"What is a system?

It is a relation between parts that can be very different from one another and that constitute a whole at the same time organized, organizing, and organizer" (Morin, 2006: 7). A system is a 'fiction' of whole.

Each system is rooted in one or several grand narratives. One Grand Narrative we hear in both General Systems Theory (GST) and Open systesm Theory (OST) is 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.' Each grand narrative has one or more ideologies.

What is "Grand Narrative"?

In each context there are many Grand Narratives that privilege one standpoint over any others. And each Grand Narrative has an ideology that marginalizes others' ideologies. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. (1979/1984). The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge , (Vol. 10). University of Minnesota Press. (1979 in French’ 1984 English translation).

Here is an online version of the Lyotard book:

What is ideology?

Lyotard's (1984) stance on Grand Narratives, is itself a Grand Narrative (Boje, 2001a). In dismissing both the leftist and right-ist Grand Narratives, Lyotard, in my view is privileging a Postmodern Grand Narrative of only little stories (petit recits).

A proper tragedy for Aristotle is a coherent and linear narrative, the "imitation of an action that is complete in itself, as a whole of some magnitude... Now a whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end" (Aristotle, Roberts & Bywater 1954: 233).[1]

Grand narrative (Lyotard, 1984/1968) requires for legitimacy either an aesthetic or structural form (such as Aristotles beginning, middle, & end) or a claim to be appropriated from little narratives [petit recit] (p. 60, Lyotard) what we call a web of living stories.

Summary: “The grand narrative has lost its credibility, regardless of what mode of unification it uses, regardless of whether it is speculative narrative or narrative of emancipation” (Lyotard, 1984: 37). Lyotards grand narratives secure legitimation in a “pragmatic protocol” that is put into play in institutions by recounting them, listening to them, and assuming narratee and narrator roles in them (p. 22-23). This “popular narrative pragmatics” is a “language game known to the West” that provided “immediate legitimation” (p. 23). Grand narratives up until World War II certified themselves as legitimate “without recourse to argumentation or proof” (p. 27). Examples are the grand narrative of universal history of the life of the spirit in German idealism, the narratives of liberation of socialism and Marxism. Following Walter Benjamin (1937) Lyotard sees the rise of technology and changes in the organization of work, as leading to a decline in the legitimacy of grand narratives of speculation and emancipation (pp. 37-38). Institutions of higher education, universities, are now "called upon to create skills, and no longer ideals” (emancipation of humanity) or search for truth (p. 48). The grand narrative pragmatics have changed from “is it true” to “is it efficient?” “is it salable” and “”what use is it” (p. 51). Read more on Lyotard's (1984) stance on Grand Narratives.

In my work there is a struggle between Grand Narratives and the Little Living Stories that Grand Narratives whose ideologies either marginalize, or claim to represent in one or more DECONTEXTUALIZAED ways. Grand Narratives seek to universalize, essentialize, into one grand generalization (Boje, 1995).

What is Living Story Web?

See study guide on Living Story.

In your answers to LIVING STORY questions, please be self-reflective about contexts. Please be self-reflexive and accoutable for your own Egoistic-Self and how to enact a Critical Ontological-Self in social, econmic, political, cultural and some other contexts?

Therefore, in Boje (2008a), instead of systems, I developed a theory of systemicities in thier polyphonic contexts.

What is Systemicity?

What is Systemicity? Systemicity is holographic, with many different systemicities in many contexts (social, economic, plitical, ecological, Materialisms, and so on). Instead of ONE WHOLE system, there are many uncompleted, partially implemented, partially uninstalled, and interconnected, embedded, and entangled SYSTEMICITIES in interactive contexts. Systemicities are situated in many CONTEXTS (social, economic, political, cultural, gendered, racial, ecological, and so onl). Our systemicites can be EGOISTIC, CRITICAL, or even POSTHUMANIST.

Mikhail Bakhtin (1981: 152) uses the term "systematicalness" to denote unmerged parts and unfinalized non-wholeness, what I am calling systemicity, is similar, however includes as well, the antisystemic. Open systems thinking generalizes with abstractions, at a distance from what I call systemicity (Boje, 2008a). This systemicity is comprised of relatum, four kinds of antenarrative-relata: linear-, cyclic-, spiral-, and rhizomatic (Boje, 2001, 2011, 2014). See Boje (2008a: pp. 2, 29, 54, 191, 264, pp 42-54 for relaiton to storytelling organizations.

POlyphonic Contexts of Quantum Systems Theory

Figure 1 - Polyphony of Systemicity Contexts and their interplay (Drawing by Boje)

Quantum Systemicity is holographic interweaving of contexts that are themselves interconnected, embedded, and entangled. A plurality of contexts are interconnecting, embedding, and entangling in relationship to Quantum Systemicity. Grounding and embedding systemicities in multiple contexts allows us to see the struggle between and beneath Grand Narratives with Living Story Webs, and the before and bets antenarrative relationships.

Four B's of Antenarrative

Figure 2 - Four B's of Antenarrative (adapted from Boje, 2014b See Warwick keynote)

PRACTICE EXERCISE: Put your Self in each context, and write about it, for your answers. What is your social context? Your family, your friends, your community, you society, and so on. What is your economic context, the way you, your own Self views the Economy?. There are a spectrum of economic standpoints, and Ego-Self stands in one of them, be it are left, left, moderate, right, far-right, and so on. What political context do you make your stand in? Again there are a spectrum of contexts. There are grand narratives of cultural differences, and Ego-Self views all others' cultures through their own particular culture. Continue to articulate your other context standpoints.


Figure 3: EGOISTIC SELF in Contexts of SYSTEMICITY (Drawing by Boje)

By writing out your own EGOISTIC standpoint, and claiming it, you are in a position to begin the project of SELF-REFLECTION, SELF-INQUIRY, and SELF-CONSCIENCE to explore non-Egoistic standpoints in your weekly answers to questions.

Egocentric Contexts

Figure 4 - Egocentric Selfhood in Monological Contexts (drawing by Boje)

WHAT IS YOUR 'Egocentric-Self' and "Other; In these 11 Contexts?

Edgar Morin (Morin, 2006: 15) adds, "The need for contextualization is extremely important." Joe Kincheloe (2007) believes that it is possible using a 'critical ontology' to get beyond a decontextualized understanding, and to move out of an 'Egocentric Selfhood'.


Hologrammatic Principle: “according to which not only a part is inside a whole, but all the whole is inside the part; just as the totality of a genetic inheritance is found in each cell of our organisms, the society with its culture is incised the spirit of the individual” (Morin, 2006: 16)

Dialogical Principle: Complexity is dialgical” speparability-inseparability, whole-parts, effect-cause, product-producer, life-death, home sapiens-home demeans, etc.” “The dialogic is not a response to these paradoxes, but the means of facing them, by considering the complementarity of antagonisms and the proactive play, sometimes vital, of complementary antagonisms” (Morin, 2006: 16).

Besides the Dialogical, there are Dialectical models of systemicities.

When does EGOISTIC-SELF BECOME a Critical-Ontological-Self of possibilities? (see (Kincheloe, 2007 Praeger Handbook of Education and Psychology: p. 894-895), and please read the section on CRITICAL ONTOLOGY and Postformal Self beginning on p. 894.

Critical Ontological Self

Figure 5 -Critical Ontologic-Selfhood in in contexts of Multiplicity - Drawing by Boje:

What is your Critical-Ontologic-Selfhood Potentiality?

Class Discussion: Hover over this for deinition: What is Critical Ontology of Systemicity of your 'Self' in attunement to multiple contexts of OPEN SYSTEMS THEORY ; Consider the Ontico-Ontological Condition of OSC, Pragmatism, and Ontology in Gladwin, Kennelly, & Krause (1995) and Kötke; in Kincheloe (2007)?

Now I want to get more precise about the relationships among Systemicity Contexts, their interconnectedness, interactivity, embeddedness, and entanglement. To do this I developed a theory of antenarrative (Boje, 2001a, 2008a, 2011, 2014a).

What is Antenarrative?

Antenarrative was invented and defined in Boje (2001) as the double meaning of 'ante' as "before" [grand] narrative, and as 'bet' on the future. It became basis for Antenarrative Handbook (Boje, 2011). In 2014, expanded the definition, to include the between and the beneath (Boje, 2014b Warwick Conference keynote).

BETWEEN: An antenarrative is a connection or linking process between Grand Narratives of legitimation and the Living Story Web.

An antenarrative is also a beneath, in the microprocesses, the microstructures that a Grand Narrative covers over. For this semester, I would like as a project to develop a 'critical ontology' understanding of antenarratives. I have begun to do this with the keynote presentation I gave at University of Warwick, at the conference on Cross-Cultural Management. You can see the paper, the slides, and for a while, a video (

Figure 6 - the Fourfold of Antenarrative in relation to Critical Ontology - Drawing by Boje (for the Warwick keynote, July 2014).

Fore-having, fore-telling (aka fore-sight), fore-conception, and fore-structure are developed by Martin Heidegger (1962/1927) in Being and Time (see searchable text on line). Here I will give the relevant citations to developing an antenarrative extension to the fores' in relation to before-bets-between-beneath. Heidegger (1962) develops the fores' thorughout Being and Time.

Note: in citing Heidegger, # refers to the section number, since various translations have differing page numbers (e.g. #150 and #157 in Heidegger, 1962 are sections 150 and 157; see searchable text):

"Whenever something is interpreted as something, the interpretation will be founded essentially upon fore-having, fore-sight, and fore-conception" (#150).

"Like any interpretation wherever, assertion necessarily has a fore-having, a fore-sight, and a fore-conception as its existential foundations" (#157).

The following is for use in student's CANVAS answers, and in the two JOURNAL article projects in Mgt 655 and the cases in Mgt375v. Read through them an come up with your own

Antenarrative BEFORE Fore-having:

Sections 150, 151, 153, 157, 232-4, 236, 268, 290, 311, 316, 323

Antenarrative BETS of Fore-telling (fore-sight)

Sections 80, 150, 153, 156, 158, 232, 257, 311, 316

Antenarrative BENEATH sensed by Fore-conception

Sections 150, 153, 157, 232, 311, 327

Antenarrative Fore-structure (Between)

Sections 151-153

Antenarrative Fore-Caring (Becoming)


What are five kinds of antenarratives?

Antenarratives, the bets, before, between, beneath, & becoming. The Between of Grand Narratives and individuated living story webs. The bets on the future. the beneath the Grand Narratives and living story webs.

1. Linear-antenarratives: Grand Narratives (often linear with beginning, middle, and end) make a linear-antenarrative connection to the erased, purged, marginalized, appropriated Living Story Web.

2. Cyclic-antenarratives: A cyclic-antenarrative is a sequence if stages (or phases) that repeats, and repeats sameness, again and again, without evolution, adaptation, or change. They are more fantasy (or ideal) than actual authtentic lived experience of organizations.

3. Spiral-antenarratives: A spiral-antenarrative, its phases or stages, begin to show differences, with each twirl of the spiral. In simplistic spiral-antenarratives the upward spiraling is towards ocherence, and the downward toward so many differences, it falls into the momentum of the abyss. In double-spiral-antenarratives, the double is the simulteneous upward and downward momentums, the left and the right movement, the centripetal (centering) and centrifugal (decentering, expanding) momentum.

4. Rhizomatic-antenarratives: The rhizome-antenarrative lacks a central axis around which acts of difference and sameness, disorder and order occur. Rather, the rhizome-antenarrative goes every which way, over, under, around, and thorugh obstacles.

Figure 7 - Four Types of Antenarratives (Boje, 2014a the Dragon Book).

The question is what kind of antenarrative connection between Grand Narratives of GST/OST is made in the 20th century system theorizing? And what is the future?


MORE Grand Narratives of General Systems Theory (GST) and Open Systems Theory (OST)

It is said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When is this not the case? When we have a macro-theory that explains social reality in its entirety in a narrowly defined lens that is overly simplistic, by suppressing the differences. Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1968) constructs several grand Narratives of GST and OST. GST is what John Dewey (1929) calls A Quest for Certainty. GST is the "theretical structures within every feild" from physics, biology, psychology to any social science 'cacoon' (Bertalanffy, 1968: 30).

In von Bertalanffy's General Systems Theory (GST) and in Open Systems Theory? (see Boje 2008 systemicity vs. system' see Boje 2014a for more on Grand Narrative. See Edgar Morin (2007) who says the whole can be less than sum of system parts (Boje, 2008a)? Hint: one key shortcoming of GST & OST is decontextualization.

The hierarchy of systems (originally by Kenneth Boulding) is a second Grand Narrative, a myth, that Bertalanffy appropriates and replicates (p. 28).

Hierarchy of Systems

  1. Stable Strctures (form)
  2. Clock Works (mechanistic)
  3. Control Mechanisms (cybernetics)
  4. Open systems (balance entropy with negative entropy in purposive, goal-seeking equilibrium state)
  5. Lower Organisms (living systems)
  6. Animals (also living systems)
  7. Man (also living system)
  8. Socio-Cultural symbol
  9. Symbolic Systems

In this grand narrative of systems hierarchy, the first three systems are reversible, but open system is not reversible. He wants to move beyond the mechanistic approaches to systems, with open systems. Open System is purposive, goal seeking, able to establish an equilibrium staate of equifinality. The living system is already an open system in his organismic conception of bieology (p. 12). "The theory of open systems was advanced, based ont he rather trivial fact that the organizm happens to be an open system" (Bertalanffy, 1968: 13). OST is also teleology, a directedness (p. 45) whereby the open system attains a steady state (p. 46).

Bertalanffy is a self-described "neopositivist" (p. 12) who rejected positivism. He is also a self-descripbed advocate of German mysticism and historical relativism, so he did not make a "good positivist" (IBID.). Neopositivism embraces verfication and theories of knowledby by combining logic, empiricisms, and linguistics as the basis of empirical sciences. Postivism, on the other hand, combines logical and mathematical methods (survey research, experimental research) with sensory experience. A critical ontology therefore combined critical pragmatic with ontologic pragmatic, to get before, beneath, between, and at other bets than the positivistic (post-positivisitic, or neopositivist) grand narratives of systems are positing.

Yet another Grand Narrative is the historicity of GST and OST, how von Bertalanffy discovered them. Notice in his etymology or history of GST/OST, William James' work is not mentioned.

HINTS: William James (1907: Lecture 4 The One and the Many) preceded Open Systems Theory of von Bertalanffy, but is not mentioned (see Boje, 2014 COPE hint)

Yet another Grand Narrative of Bertalanffy is the GST will become a unity of all sciences, the isomophic traces of order, the structural uniformities (p. 52). . It will not repeat the calamity of both the mechanistic (Newtonian-Cartesian) paradigm, nor the totalitarianism of fascism. Bertalanffy gives is Leviathan warning. "Man is not only a political animal; hi is, before and above all, an indivdiual... Human society is not a community of ants or termites, goverened by inherited instinct and controlled by the laws of the superordinate whole; it is based upon the achievements of the individual and is doomed if the individual is made a cog in the social machine" (pp. 52-53). Here and elsewhere, he rfutes the mechanistic model of systems thinking, and then presents his "theory of organizations" that he says is "not a manual for dictators of any denomination... to subjugate human beingins by the scientific applicatino of Iron Lawes, but a warning that the Leviathan of organization must not swallow the individual without sealing its own inevitable doom" (p. 53).

One aspect of Grand Narrative of GST/OST is the decontextualizaiton. Let's go back to Edgar Morin who is rather suspicious and critical of GST and OST and its biologism because yet another Grand Narrative of GST and OST is the way in which they decontextualice using a "complex of concepts" (p. 27).

"But there is also a substractivity which I want to highlight, noticing that the whole is not only more than the sum of its parts, but it is also less that the sum of it parts. Why? Because a certain number of qualities and properties present in the parts can be inhibited by the organization of the whole" (Morin, 2006: 7).



CLASS DISCUSSION: What is posthumanist critical ontology?

Gephart (1999) gives definitions of 'positivist' 'post positivist' 'interpretativist' (aka social constructivist mixed with ontological) and 'critical postmodern. (see table of definitions). Before attempting answers to questions 1a and 1b, you are advised to get an undertanding of defnitions in Gephart, then begin the work of sorting out the definitions of the COPE pagamtisms (Boje, 2014): Pragmatic COPE [please hover over for definition to appear and see the basic premises of questions for this session.

CLASS DISCUSSION: What is 'Critical Ontology'? Life is a process Being-in-the-world of interconnectedness and entangled contexts. The 'new' critical ontology is all about the how so-called 'systems' have Being-in-the-world, in-spaces, in-times, and in-materialisms. Here is an example:

"Where mind ends and matter begins is difficult to discern, a situation that operates to overturn the long-standing and problematic Cartesian separation of the two entities. In Mataurana’s and Varela’s conception, mind and matter are merely parts of the same process—one cannot exist without the other. A critical ontology seeks to repair this rupture between mind and matter, self and world" (Kincheloe, 2007 Praeger Handbook of Education and Psychology: p. 895). Full Reference: Kincheloe, Joe L. (2007). Postformalism and Critical Ontology—Part 1: Difference, Indigenous Knowledge, and Cognition. Pp. 884-899 in Joe L. Kincheloe and Raymond A. Horn (Eds.) The Praeger handbook of education and psychology. Vol. 1. Greenwood Publishing Group. PDF] from

"Autopoiesis as the process of self-production is the way living things operate" as the diverse parts of an organization-system interact and create meaning in their attunement to multiple-contexts (IBID.: p. 896). "The Web is an autopoietic organism that constructs itself in a hypertextual mode of operation" (IBID.: p. 897).

Hint: Hover over this for definition: More on What is AUTOPOIESIS? [please hover over for definition to appear].

Hermeneutic Ciricle - "In the hermeneutic circle the relationships between parts “self-construct” previously unimagined meanings. Thus, in an ontological context meaning emerges not from the thing-in-itself but from its relationships to an infinite number of other things" (IBID.: p. 896).

In the classroom, your Self has profound implications, pedagogically. A 'formal self' is able to be individualistic, and self-interested in REDUCTION to one social, economic, political, cultural, linguistic, epistemic, and cosmological context. This means, there is a lot of Othering going on, where the Other is abstract, general, universall, essentialized, and so on. Joe Kincheloe's 'critical ontology' is all about developing a 'Postformal self' that has what Heidegger (1962) calls 'attunement' to multiple-contexts where there are close encounters with the Other, so the they-self is questioned in a 'critical ontology.' The Postformal self is attuned to multiple contexts and to the processes and structures by whith Othering occurs.

Luhmann's autopoeiesis, its types and levels. An article by David Siedel.

Posthumanism, Bioconstitutionalism and Hela-True Life Science Fiction: Sherryl Vint YouTube on posthumanism TED TALK (16 minutes)

Gladwin, Thomas N., James J. Kennelly, and Tara-Shelomith Krause (1995). "Shifting paradigms for sustainable development: Implications for management theory and research.Academy of Management Review 20.4 (1995): 874-907. cited 1243 times.

Discussion of impact of global systemicity economy on organizational systemicity sustainability.

FYI - YouTube on Veterans and Storytelling Sandplay: Embodied Restorying Process as an ontologic analytic methodology.

Introduction: YouTube The Age of Sustainable Development by Jeffrey Sacks, Columbia University

Time line of Systems Theory; A cybernetics time line taking it back further; Cybernetic timeline ending with quantum theory

How to read and cite read and cite Martin Heidegger [please hover over for definition to appear] in your short answers: e.g. Ontico-Ontological Condition of OSC [please hover over for definition to appear].

Figure - Three Heidegger Themes, Figure 8 - from Boje (2014a) & Boje (2012a) The ♥-of-Care (see paper).

Discuss some or all of these in your short assignment answers: System Complexity Intro; Pragmatic COPE [please hover over for definition to appear]; Three Schools of Systems thinking (over over for short discussion); 'Central Debates in the OSC Literature.' (hover over for short list); Sustainability of OSC [please hover over for definition to appear].

Boje (2014) Storytelling in Organizaitons: Managing in the Quantum Age. London: Routledge. Has glossary of terms, and covers COPE in American and European Pragmatism and proto-pragmatism of Heidegger, as well as Merleau-Ponty, et. al.

Boje (2008: 28-35) book, for overview of Boulding's (1956) 9 levels (see Pondy's 1976 article); Pondy & Mitroff version [PDF] Beyond open system models of organization: 1 FRAMEWORKS, 2 MECHANISTIC, 3 CONTROL,4 OPEN, 5 ORGANIC, 6 IMAGE, 7 SYMBOL, 8 NETWORK, 9 TRANSCENDENTAL (Read STO ch 1, 2 etc.). Note Heidegger looks at in-Being in transcendental mode, but Pondy skips itl Boje (2011g)).

Heidegger, Martin (1962. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson. NY, Hagerstown, san Francisco, London: Harper & Row Publishers. 1927 in German and 1962 English transalation. See searchable text online at

Heidegger, Marin. (1996). Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. NY: State University of New York Press.

Heisenberg, Werner. (1958). Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science. NY: Harper & Brothers Publications.This is what inspired Dewey (1929.See pages in Heisenberg126-128, to get understanding of the double system-antisystem state of quantum ontology in relation to K. Boulding's (1956) levels of system:. e.g. "But the application of such a language raises a number of difficult problems of which we shall discuss only two here: the relation between the different `levels' of language and the consequences for the underlying ontology." [PDF] from

James, W. (1907). Pragmatism. Lecture Four: The One and the Many. Learn the Eight Pragmatic Systemicity' critiques of Open Systems Theory. Then, relate those to Eight Quantum Systemicities (see table).


von Bertalanffy, L. (1972).The History and Status of General Systems Theory. "theory of "open systems," that is, systems exchanging matter with environment as every 'living' system does" (p. 412); Here is a brief piece that could help in deconstructing von Bertalanffy: Smith, Reginal D. (2011). Five Differences Between Ecological and Economic Networks Abstract: Ecological and economic networks have many similarities and are often compared. However, the comparison is often more apt as metaphor than a direct equivalence. Note: this fits with Heidegger who looks at the epistemic-schema (abstractions & metaphor) as different than the ontological historicality of factical.

Edgar Morin says Part can be greater than whole system - Complex Thinking for a Complex World – About Reductionism, Disjunction and Systemism by Edgar Morin; from Systema: connecting matter, life, culture and technology Vol 2, No 1 (2014)