A model of systems design, in which the parts of a system are grouped together into holons (aka subassemblies), and those holons are in turn grouped, and so on upwards in a hierarchy of increasing complexity. Each holon comprises a hierarchy of smaller holons; and each holon itself exists within a larger hierarchy.

The problem with that understanding of the intimate connections of parts and wholes within a system is that—if taken too literally—it is too neat. Ecosystems are irregular and complex, with many hierarchies overlapping in space, time and function, so they are better known as “panarchies”, implying a harmonic order and the rule of many.

For more detail on panarchies and the interactions within and between them, see Systems Thinking > Form > Holons and Hierarchy.M16


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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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