Systems practice

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 365–380 | Cite as

The culpabliss error: A calculus of ethics for a systemic world

  • Stafford Beer
Memorandum Marking His Seventieth Birthday


This paper examines the inadequacy of managerial models to manage our world, especially in ethical matters. It starts by illustrating the reductionistic nature of these models. They gradually take the place of the real world in our minds and become a surrogate world. While this surrogate world seems to perform perfectly well, the real world is far out of control. Next the paper states that understanding and, therefore, models are timeless. The article explains how ancient misconceptions about change find their correspondence in modern misconceptions about ethical decisions. This is the culpabliss error. The author finally argues that the ethical relationships between a decision or action and its consequences must be dealt with in a cybernetic way.

Key Words

ethics cybernetics models reductionism justice management 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beer, S. (1966).Decision and Control, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.Google Scholar
  2. Beer, S. (1970).The Organization of the Manchester Business School from Nineteen Seventy, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.Google Scholar
  3. Beer, S. (1975). The surrogate world we manage,“ Presidential Address to the Society for General Systems Research, Dec. 29, 1971, InPlatform for Change, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, pp. 397–416.Google Scholar
  4. Beer, S. (1986a). The future of work, Keynote Address to 55th Annual Couchiching Conference.Futures Canada 8, Nos. 2 and 3.Google Scholar
  5. Beer, S. (1986b). Recursions of power, Keynote Address to 7th European Conference on Cybernetics and Systems Research, Apr. 1984. In Trappl, R. (ed.),Power, Autonomy, Utopia, Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Beer, S. (1972)Brain of the Firm, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2nd ed., 1981).Google Scholar
  7. Beer, S. (1996). Man in a garrulous silence.Kybernetes 25(7).Google Scholar
  8. Hutton, W. (1995).The State We're In, Jonathan Cape, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stafford Beer
    • 1
  1. 1.TorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations