Autopoiesis and Dysfunctional Organisational Processes

Deborah Blackman, Steven Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is now a growing literature and management prescription that purports to be based on the biological theory of autopoiesis. Doubts have arisen concerning the effects of changing the theory from its biological base to the social basis advanced by Luhman. In this paper, we apply the original theory as derived by Maturana and Varela as a metaphor to the learning organisation as defined by Senge. This approach is chosen because it can be shown that Senge's prescriptions could exacerbate tendencies towards autopoietic dynamics. By working through the analysis, we are able to show that autopoietic tendencies within a firm would be highly dangerous, and would most likely defeat attempts to manage them, or manage with them. It also suggests that the learning organisation is ultimately self-defeating if autopoiesis is an effective organisational metaphor
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-42
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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