Journal of the Operational Research Society

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 7–25 | Cite as

The Viable System Model: Its Provenance, Development, Methodology and Pathology

  • Stafford Beer
General Paper


It took the author 30 years to develop the Viable System Model, which sets out to explain how systems are viable-that is, capable of independent existence. He wanted to elucidate the laws of viability in order to facilitate the management task, and did so in a stream of papers and two (of his seven) books. Much misunderstanding about the V.S.M. and its use seems to exist; especially its methodological foundations have been largely forgotten, while its major results have hardly been noted. This paper reflects on the history, nature and present status of the V.S.M., without seeking once again to expound the model in detail or to demonstrate its validity. It does, however, provide a synopsis, present the methodology and confront some highly contentious issues about both the managerial and scientific paradigms.


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Copyright information

© Operational Research Society 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stafford Beer

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