We have over 12,000 students, from over 100 countries, within one of the safest campuses in the UK


93% of Lancaster students go into work or further study within six months of graduating

Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Exploring system boundaries
View graph of relations

« Back

Exploring system boundaries

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Associated organisational unit

Journal publication date2013
JournalLaw and Critique
Number of pages21
Original languageEnglish


Autopoiesis is normally considered to be the systems theory in law. In this paper complexity theory is presented as an alternative systems approach. In order to position complexity theory as a plausible alternative to autopoiesis I discuss the differing understanding of boundary within each theory, and use this as a vehicle to critique autopoiesis. My critique is situated within systems theory thinking but is external to both autopoiesis and complexity theory (although I must oscillate between the two object of critique). Because both approaches possess an understanding of boundary it provides an effective tool to contrast their differences, while permitting each to be described in its own language. It is argued that complexity theory offers an approach to boundaries as contingent, emergent, interfaces, which the autopoietic construction of boundary can learn from in several ways. More generally it is suggested that the complexity theory approach to boundaries offers lawyers engaging with systems theory a new critical perspective to assess legal constructions.

Related research outputs