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The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution (Systems Science and World Order Library. Innovations in Systems Science) [Hardcover]

E. Jantsch
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 25, 1980 0080243126 978-0080243122 1st
The evolution of the universe - ranging from cosmic and biological to sociocultural evolution - is viewed in terms of the unifying paradigm of self-organization. The contours of this paradigm emerge from the synthesis of a number of important, recently developed concepts, and provide a scientific foundation to a new world-view which emphasizes process over structure, nonequilibrium over equilibrium, evolution over permanency, and individual creativity over collective stabilization. The book, with its emphasis on the interaction of microstructures with the entire biosphere, ecosystems etc., and on how micro- and macrocosmos mutually create the conditions for their further evolution, provides a comprehensive framework for a deeper understanding of human creativity in a time of transition.

Editorial Reviews


I don't know how this book has escaped WER review for so long. Its main theme is an exploration of how most natural systems seem to behave; they make things up as they go along. Author Erich Jantsch shows the commonalities in the way in which seemingly different systems organize themselves and change over time, and the picture which emerges is entrancing. Whether discussing simple inorganic chemical processes or the complexities of cultural revolution, Jantsch's unifying vision restores to nature the self-directedness and spontaneity which science has denied it since the seventeenth century. While the book is, of necessity, a reconnaissance, it paints the most expansive and generous view of nature I have come across. I have a friend who set aside a winter to read this book properly.
Whole Earth Review

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation)

Product Details

  • Series: Systems Science and World Order Library. Innovations in Systems Science
  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Pergamon; 1st edition (March 25, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0080243126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0080243122
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,359,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
I first encountered this book while researching my dissertation on chaos/complexity/systems theories and their implications for clinical psychology (It was only due to the marvelous holdings of the University of Pennsylvania library that I was able to find it at all...I'll get back to that). It wasn't long before I realized that I had stumbled across a staggeringly important volume. The scope of the late Professor Jantsch's vision on subjects ranging from biology and chemistry to cosmology and earth science was (IS!) breathtaking. Long before anyone outside of circumscribed and as-yet unconnected circles had ever mentioned the words "Chaos" or "Dynamical Systems" theory, Jantsch was lucidly and adroitly anticipating some of the most advanced implications of this unborn paradigm. As a friend and colleague of the great Ilya Prigogine, this is perhaps not so surprising in retrospect. However, his encapsulation of self-organization and self-similarity is still, in my opinion, one of the more mature and comprehensive treatments on the subjects to date! His incorporation of the theories of evolution (seen as both a "micro" and a "macro-" level process) brought it all together in a way which joins and integrates disciplines like neurons link brain and body. All the more reason why I am appalled that this book is so completely out of circulation that my last out-of-print search turned up one volume (after several months), at a cost of over $200US! It is unconscionable that this pivotal work is inaccessible to students, scientists, and instructors, at a time when Jantsch's ideas are so relevant to this increasingly interconnected, evolving global civilization. The closest thing we have is Teillhard de Chardin... Read more ›
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why is this out of print? October 6, 2000
By Zentao
This book and Chaitin's "The Limits of Mathematics" should be printed in softcover and distributed at supermarkets. This is perhaps one of the most important books of the 20th century, simply because Jantsch has managed to finally put a very large amount of information (just the reading list is worth the price of the book) in one place. Thermodynamics, cybernetics, mathematics, computing, physics...they've all been saying the same thing for years now and for some reason we irrationally ignore the message: the TRUTH is not to be found in a formal system based on anything resembling the Aristotelian logic we of the Western world love so dearly...And the deeper we wallow in our mythical constructions the more likely we won't be around for very long.
This is not a "lite" book; perhaps that is why the copy I have (an inspection copy from a major university) has only been taken out seven times since 1980! Pathetic considering the current hand-waving taking place in AI (particularly the work of Dennett and the Churchlands) and the philosophy of mind. The only other place to find the overview is in Leduc's IEEE paper "Human Knowledge: can the planet survive human rationality?". Perlovsky's work in cybernetics is also an excellent place to see similar results.
It is unfortunate this is out of print; perhaps you can find a copy in a library. Better yet, start bugging the publisher to reprint it.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important achievements of 20th century.. November 20, 2001
For me, this book is the thing that changed my view upon the universe. Before this book, I was a critical reductionist with a mechanistic view. I am too short of English to express what this book was for me :) but the only thing I can tell you is that if there were only one book that I could have in my life, this book would be that one.. I can't estimate the value of this, surely one of the most important achievements of 20th century..
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genuine Wonderment June 4, 2005
This book is unlike any other publication I have ever looked at. Jantsch synthesizes scientific facts from numerous fields of study, and does so in a surprisingly coherent manner. While reading through the pages, I wondered, where has this book been my entire life? Why didn't somebody tell me this book existed? I stumbled into this volume accidently, and to my good fortune.

Reductionism is a useful paradigm, but certainly not a comprehensive one. Jantsch drills this point home.

The strength of this book isn't just the fact that it makes a very strong argument for a self-organizing universe. It's the fact that Jantsch does so with a unique combination of hard facts, experimental evidence, analytical arguments, coherent synthesis, profound humanity and even a bit of poetry. I'm not trying to be dramatic and sappy, it's really true. I can almost feel how much this book meant to Jantsch, and how he knew, deep down, that he was on to something very important. There was something special about Jantsch, and something special about this book. If you read this book, and are still convinced that the universe is purely a meaningless "mechanistic machine" then I feel very sorry for you.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The self-organizing reviewer August 11, 2003
It's a shame this book is out of print. No longer up-to-date on every detail, but still ahead of the curve on the big picture. Jantsch uses self-organizing systems theory to tie cosmic, geological, biological and cultural evolution together into a unified vision. A book of science with profound social and (to my mind) spiritual implications. Certainly worth the used softcover price, although be warned, the Pergamon softcover binding tends to crack and fall apart (I went through two of them). But at $300+ the hardcover is definately for the serious buyer only (I was lucky and bought mine in the mid-eighties at Powell's for $40). You might also check out Fritjof Capra's 1996 'The Web of Life'. It's an updated version of 'The Self-Organizing Universe' (see page 111: "My own synthesis of these concepts in the present book is, in a sense, a reformulation of Erich Jantsch's earlier work.") Also recommended: any books by Ervin Lazslo, Ilya Prigogine or James Lovelock.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I keep it in a fireproof safe with a few other special books and other...
This book is essential reading for any student of self-organizing systems. I first encountered this work while researching system theories twenty-some odd years ago in grad school. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Lai
5.0 out of 5 stars The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications
This book is referenced in several other books I have, so I was glad to find a copy. Condition was as described. -- Well packaged and no shipping damage. Read more
Published 7 months ago by VB
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever.
This books is absolutely one of the greatest books of all time. If you have perchance been lucky enough to come across it, get it.
Published 11 months ago by Celia Blumenthal
5.0 out of 5 stars One of top ten books of all time
I don't even remember how I stumbled upon this book but I can tell you that it has done more to change my view of reality than any other and I only wish it were more generally... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Steven Mosley
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book.
A cornucopia of ideas. Major challenges to run-of-the-mill science. For example, solid flaws are pointed out in one of the biggest assumptions of modern science- the law of large... Read more
Published 22 months ago by This Universe
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant beyond belief
This will change your view of everything. I can't possibly recommend it enough to anyone with any curiosity about anything.
Published on June 9, 2009 by B. Tandy
5.0 out of 5 stars Darwinism (nor Creationism) will Never be the Same after this Book
Following on the heels of Ilya Prigogine, and of course those of Charles Darwin, but also in the same vein as that of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Norbert Wiener, Ervin Laszlo, and my... Read more
Published on February 15, 2008 by Herbert L Calhoun
5.0 out of 5 stars Erich Jantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe
I just want to agree with the four earlier reviewers. I think I found Jantsch's book in 1985, and to me life has never been the same afterwards. Read more
Published on November 15, 2003 by Erland.Lagerroth
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