In recent decades, the governance function of independent schools in Australia has received considerable attention. A number of governing bodies have been influenced by the work of the American consultant John Carver and his Policy Governance Model and, with greater or lesser success, have attempted to implement his ideas. A recent article (Buchinger 2006) and a recent Australian Broadcasting Corporation Science program (The Science Show) prompted the writer to revisit the work on autopoietic social systems of the German Sociologist Niklas Luhmann and explore how Carver’s work fits with some theoretical aspects of governance derived from this theory. The paper begins with a consideration of autopoietic social systems and how they are structured to enable them to function. Unlike traditional theories of systems which view them as being constructed from component parts and that are either open or closed to their environments, autopoietic systems are viewed holistically as entities that can distinguish themselves from their environments and that are simultaneously open to environmental perturbations but closed in the way in which they deal with such perturbations. It is argued that a key function of governance is to enable the systems to operate reflexively and observe their own observations. In this sense they enable something analogous to the concept of “reflexive consciousness”. Autopoietic social systems structure their operations by reflexive expectations. These must be stabilized over the three dimensions of social life – the temporal (i.e. over time), the social (i.e. among other people) and the factual (i.e. the themes of social interaction) In each of these domains the governing body plays a significant role and Policy Governance with its emphasis on policies, values and perspectives sits comfortably with this theory.
|Keywords:||Autopoietic Social Systems, Governance, Luhmann|
Chairman of Council, Macarthur Anglican School, Camden, NSW, Australia
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