When we study living systems from the perspective of form, we find that their pattern of organization is that of self-generating network. From the perspective of the matter, the material structure of a living system is a dissipative structure, i.e., an open system operating far from equilibrium. From the process perspective, finally,living system are cognitive system in which process of cognition is closely linked to the pattern of autopoiesis .
In the diagram below I have represented the three perspectives as points in a triangle to emphasize that they are fundamentally interconnected.
Accordingly, I postulate that the systemic understanding of life can be extended to the social domain by adding the perspective of meaning, to the other three perspectives. In doing so, I am using meaning as shorthand notation for the inner world of reflective consciousness, which contains a multitude of interrelated characteristic.
Integrating the four perspectives means recognizing that each contributes significantly to the understanding of a social phenomenon. For example, we shall see that culture is created and sustained by a network (form) of communications (process), in which meaning is generated. The culture’s material embodiments (matter) include artifacts and written texts, through which is passed on from generation to generation.