Principia Cybernetica Web

"The Macroscope", a book on the systems approach

Principia Cybernetica Web now offers the complete text and drawings of the book "The Macroscope" by Joël de Rosnay. It was originally published in 1979 by Harper & Row, (New York), but is now out of print. Therefore, we have made it again available on the web.

Dr. Joël de Rosnay, a molecular biologist, systems theorist, science writer, and futurologist, is presently Director of Strategy of the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie at La Villette (near Paris). He is an associate of the Principia Cybernetica Project.

This book is an excellent, easy to read introduction to cybernetics and systems thinking, with applications to living organisms, the economy and the world as a whole. The main theme is that the complex systems which govern our life should be looked at as a whole, rather than be taken apart into their constituents. The different systems, processes and mechanisms are beautifully illustrated with examples and pictures. Although the text is over 20 years old, this visionary document is still highly relevant to our present situation and state of knowledge. It is particularly recommended to people who wish to get an understanding of the basic concepts and applications of systems theory and cybernetics. The chapters below can be read independently of each other.


  • Introduction: The Macroscope
  • One. Through the Macroscope
    • 1. Ecology (The Economics of Nature: Production, Consumption, and Decomposition; Regulation and Maintenance of Equilibriums)
    • 2. The Economy (A Short History of the Economy; The Economic Machine; Recession and Inflation)
    • 3. The City
    • 4. Business and Industry
    • 5. The Living Organism
    • 6. The Cell (Linking the Cell and the Body; The Work of the Enzymes)
  • Two. The Systemic Revolution: A New Culture
    • 1. History of a Global Approach (The Systemic Approach; The Search for New Tools; "Intelligent" Machines; From Cybernetics to System Dynamics)
    • 2 What Is a System? (Open Systems and Complexity; Structural and Functional Aspects of Systems)
    • 3. System Dynamics: The Internal Causes (Positive and Negative Feedback; Flows and Reservoirs)
    • 4. Applications of the Systemic Approach (Analysis and Synthesis, Models and Simulation; The Dynamics of Maintenance and Change, The "Ten Commandments" of the Systemic Approach; Avoiding the Dangers of the Systemic Approach)
  • Three. Energy and Survival
    • 1. The Domestication of Energy
    • 2 The Great Laws of Energy (Entropy and the Science of Heat; Energy and Power)
    • 3. Metabolism and Waste in the Social Organism
    • 4. Economics and Ecology (Universal Currency: The Kilocalorie; Energy Analysis; Energy Analysis and Food Production; The Competition Between Energy and Work)
    • 5. Birth of the Bioindustry (New Jobs for Microbes; The Domestication of Enzymes; Controlling Fermentation and Photosynthesis; Ecoengineering)
  • Four. Information and the Interactive Society
    • 1. Supports of Communication (Measuring Information; Information and Entropy; The History of Communications; Descending and Ascending Information)
    • 2. The New Interactive Networks (Communications Hardware; Services in Real Time; Social Impact of Services in Real Time)
    • 3. Social Feedback (The Imbalance in Communications; The Media and electronic Participation; Problems of Representation; Advantages and Dangers of Society in Real Time)
  • Five. Time and Evolution
    • 1. Knowledge of Time (Time in the Evolution of Thought; Time in Contemporary Theories)
    • 2. The Prison of Time (The Link Between Chronology and Causality; Irreducible Points of View; The Causal Explanation: Divergence; The Final Explanation: Convergence; Complementarity: A Third Route)
    • 3. Evolution: Genesis of the Improbable (The Genesis of Form; Exclusion and Divergence; Equilibrium and Zero Growth; The Conquest of Time)
  • Six. Values and Education
    • 1. Birth of a Global Vision
    • 2. The Emergence of New Values (Criticism of Authority; Criticism of Work; Criticism of Reason; Criticism of Human Relationships; Criticism of the Plan for Society)
    • 3. Systemic Education (The Illusions of Educational Technology; The Basis of Systemic Education; The Principles of Systemic Education; The Methods of Systemic Education; Possible Structures of Parallel Education)
  • Seven. Scenario for a World
(p> See also: Belorussian translation of this page.

Copyright© 2011 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Apr 12, 2011 (modified)
Feb 26, 1997 (created)


Reference material

Principia Cybernetica Electronic Library

Prev. Next


Add comment...