go to


Chapter Two: The Evolution of Societal Structures

Section 2: Properties of Structures


 go to

 "Battle Drums on Mt. Jin" performed by the Academy of Chinese Performing Artists in 1996, starring Denise Hung, Joanna Chu (shown), and Leslie Lan. Video still taken during photoshoot.



"Wholeness", "self-regulation" and "transformations" characterize structures as a class. "Wholeness" speaks for itself -- being the property that distinguishes a structure from an aggregate. A thermostatically controlled room provides a simple illustration of self-regulation. Such a room can maintain a constant temperature despite the conduction of heat to and from the environment. The thermostat detects deviations from the setting and operates a heating or cooling unit to compensate for the deviation. Thus, the room thermostat-heating-cooling system regulates its own temperature. More complex cybernetic systems have been developed which illustrate the role of self-regulation in the operation of a hierarchy of subsystems and which emulate the capacity for development in organismic structures.



It is the property of self-regulation that allows a system to retain its form despite constant exchanges with the environment. However, this is not to imply that structures do not and cannot change. Self-regulation flows from the laws of transformation that govern the system. While in special cases, e.g. mathematical structures, the transformation may be reversible and, hence, leave the system unchanged, the general case is that the transformations will lead to development (evolution (a larger time scale) or disintegration (terminating the structure, death)).


If the character of structured wholes depends on their laws of composition, these laws must of their very nature be structuring: it is the constant duality, or bipolarity, of a ways being simultaneously structuring and structured that accounts for the success of the notion of law or rule employed by structuralists. (Structuralism, p. 13).



In fact, one of the reasons this GS framework is difficult to comprehend is that its concept of "structure" is not readily pigeon-holed by the categories used by Western society to divide our Heraclitean universe --e.g. things and actions which are represented by nouns and verbs. "Structure", along with a number of related terms -- "construct", "form", "pattern", "building", and "produce" -- have both a process (verb) and a product (noun) aspect, context determining which is being selected. Piaget's concept of "structure" is best grasped by integrating (or rather reintegrating, since the two are not distinct in nature) the product and process aspects of the term: "structure" as the process of structuring, and "structure" as the product of structuring. For example, a human being is a structure that is continually structuring itself.







Book Contents

Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


 <<Previous Chapter 1

The Search for a Pragmatic Utopia

Chapter 2 Contents

The Evolution of Societal Structures

Next Chapter 3>> 

Change as the Status Quo

<Previous Section

Roots of the GS Framework



Properties of Structures

Next Section> 

The Genesis of Structures