What is Autopoiesis with Properties and Characteristics


Autopoiesis . It is the capacity of a system to, despite not being in equilibrium, maintain structural stability by absorbing energy from the environment or continuously self-regulating. Like living beings, autopoietic systems are capable of maintaining their autonomy and a continuity of their patterns.


The concept of autopoiesis was formulated by the Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana when trying to give a definition to the organization of living organisms. a living system,

History of Autopoiesis

Autopoiesis comes from the Greek “auto” and “poiesis” meaning creation or production. It is a term that is not available in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), however, Maturana HR & Varela FJ defined this concept in their book “Of machines and living beings: A theory on biological organization”, as “an organized machine… that through its interactions and transformations continually regenerate and realize the network of processes.”

That means that autopoiesis is a system that has the ability to reproduce and maintain itself by absorbing energy from the environment and also self-regulates continuously, a system under which some living cells are governed.

Properties and Characteristics

According to Humberto Maturana, it is characterized by the ability to produce and reproduce by itself the elements that constitute it, and thus defines its own unit: each cell is the product of a network of operations internal to the system of which it is itself an element; and not from an external action.

Social systems theory adopts the concept of autopoiesis and expands its importance. While in the biological field it is applied exclusively to living systems, according to Luhmann an autopoietic system is individualized in all cases in which it is possible to individualize a specific mode of operation, which is carried out inside and only inside. In this way, two further levels of constitution of autopoietic systems are individualized, each one of them characterized by specific operations: social systems and psychic systems.

The operations of a social system are the communications, which are reproduced based on other communications, thus reproducing the unit of the system, as long as communications are not presented outside of a social system. The operations of a psychic system are thoughts and thoughts do not occur beyond the interior of a consciousness.

All autopoietic systems are characterized by operative closure. This concept indicates the fact that the operations that lead to the production of new elements of a system depend on previous operations of the same system and constitute the budget for subsequent operations: this closure constitutes the basis of the autonomy of the system in question and allows it to be distinguished from its environment (…) Also the operations of a psychic system, thoughts, are incessantly reproduced based on other thoughts (…) Only a consciousness can think (but he cannot transfer his own thoughts into another consciousness – he must go through communication). Life, thought and communication are different levels of autopoiesis, each characterized by its own autonomy.

The three fundamental properties that characterize the autopoietic phenomenon are:

  • The autonomy; an autonomy of the organic which means that only from the perspective of the cell can it be determined what is relevant to it and, above all, what is indifferent to it.
  • The operational closure; operations are closed and their components are produced within a recursive process that takes place within a closed lattice.
  • The self-construction of structures; that is to say, in the cell, in the production of its own structural changes, there is no causal intervention of the environment in the system without the same system causing it; all structural change is self-induced.

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