Retrospective View of the Club of Rome Problematique


Alexander N. Christakis was asked to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming book dedicated to the memory of C. West Churchman, the famous systems theorist and philosopher. The book is being edited by Janet McIntyre and will be published by Plenum. The TITLE OF SERIES: C.WEST CHURCHMAN LEGACY AND RELATED WORKS VOLUME 1: “RESCUING THE ENLIGHTENMENT FROM ITSELF: Critical and Systemic Implications for Democracy”.

Churchman dedicated his career to sensitizing systems scientists and other inquirers to the existence of what he referred to as “enormous problems.” In his view these are problems that cannot be addressed by a single discipline or a single inquirer but by interdisciplinary teams of inquirers. This chapter tells the story of how a group of researchers, in the context of the Club of Rome (CoR) prospectus on The Predicament of Mankind (, proposed in the early 70s a very forward looking and innovative systems approach. It took over twenty years of research and development for the emergence of a paradigm of Structured Design Process (SDP) that has been tested in the arena of practice for the last fifteen years.

The CoR prospectus introduced the concept of the Problematique as the “enormous problem” of the 20th Century. In 1993, twenty-three years after the conceptualization of the Problematique, a small team composed of three of the original architects of the CoR proposal employed the SDP paradigm to conduct a retrospective inquiry of the global Problematique. The findings from this inquiry demonstrate that no significant progress had been made in terms of resolving the root causes of the Problematique in the ensuing twenty-thee years, i.e., 1970-1993. It is conjectured that a similar inquiry conducted today, i.e., ten years later, will reaffirm the lack of progress in resolving this enormous problem of humankind. The implications of these findings are significant for all systems scientists, and especially for students of Churchman’s work.

For a review of the chapter please click here.

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