Gregory Bateson

  • Magnus Ramage
  • Karen Shipp

Gregory Bateson, anthropologist and philosopher, was a deeply original thinker who crossed multiple disciplines, always sitting on the edge between them. He began only late in life to attempt to synthesise his many contributions. As Brockman (2004) wrote, “Bateson is not easy … To spend time with him, in person or through his essays, was a rigorous intelligent exercise, an immense relief from the trivial forms that command respect in contemporary society.” But his contributions were considerable, to a wide range of fields. He was perhaps the most wide-ranging and profound thinker in early cybernetics, and his work provides a foundation for much of the important work that followed, and a deep insight into the problems of the world today. Practically every discussion of Bateson's work contains a different list of his disciplinary interests. He worked at one time or another in zoology, anthropology, cybernetics, communications theory, psychiatry, ethology (animal behaviour) and philosophy; and he also had a strong impact on family therapy, the environmental movement and organisational theory. His contribution to each of these fields was profound, but he was always ready to move on—as his biographer put it, he “posted himself to the margins of not one, but multiple disciplines from which he secluded and then absented himself” (Lipset 2005, p. 911).


Multiple Discipline Hard Science Trivial Form Double Bind Original Thinker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind. Toronto: Chandler.Google Scholar
  2. Bateson, G. (1979). Mind and nature: a necessary unity. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  3. Bateson, M. C. (1972). Our own metaphor: A personal account of a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  4. Bateson, M. C. (2000). Foreword. In G. Bateson (Ed.), Steps to an ecology of mind, revised edition (pp. vii–xv). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bateson, M. C. (2004). Willing to learn: Passages of personal discovery. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brockman, J. (2004). Gregory Bateson: The Centennial 1904–2004. Edge 149. Accessed 13 Jan 2009.
  7. Keesing, R. M. (1974). Review of Steps to an ecology of mind. American Anthropologist, 76(2), 370–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Lipset, D. (2005). Author and hero—rereading Gregory Bateson: The legacy of a scientist. Anthropological Quarterly, 78(4), 899–914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Mead, M. (1977). End linkage: A tool for cross-cultural analysis. In J. Brockman (Ed.), About Bateson (pp. 169–231). New York: E.P. Dutton.Google Scholar
  10. Nash, P. (1981). Connection and separation: Bateson's double bind. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 17(3), 409–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Toulmin, S. (1984). The evolution of Margaret Mead. New York Review of Books, 31(19), 3–9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Open University 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Magnus Ramage
    • 1
  • Karen Shipp
    • 1
  1. 1.The Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

Personalised recommendations