Open systems theory

RELATED TERMS: Theoretical practice

Open system theory was initially developed by Ludwig von Bertanlanffy in the 1950s. Although conceived in the context of biology, the theory is applicable in other disciplines. The theory defines systems as being “characterized by an assemblage or combination of parts whose relations make them interdependent” (Scott, 1992: 77).

As one moves from mechanical to organic and social systems, the the interactions between the assembled parts in the system become more complex and variable.

Narrative environments are at the more complex end of the spectrum.


Bertalanffy, L. von (1968). General system theory: foundations, development, applications. New York, NY: George Braziller.

Scott, W. R. (1992). Organizations: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall.