Critiques of systems traditions and approaches have included Ida Hoos (Systems Analysis in Public Policy: A Critique), Robert Lilienfeld (The Rise of Systems Theory : An Ideological Analysis), and — to my mind, significantly — Jean-François Lyotard (The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge).
Intriguing then that anthropologist Bruno Latour makes peace with systems thinking as preface to his new project An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns, which is published both as book and as “augmented” AIME website.
From the website FAQ, “Is AIME a system?”
Obviously, the project is systematic in the sense that it has been carried out for over twenty-five years and systematically pursued so that once a mode has been detected it is cross-referenced with all of the others modes.
However, if by system it is meant that there are no other modes and that their description is complete, obviously AIME is not a system at all (compared to Hegel’s for instance) but firstly a recapitulation of certain ‘values’ most cherished by some of the informants interrogated by the author. This is to ensure that in the long run it is not transformed into a system but rather, that it has been conceived as an inquiry opened to many other co-inquirers other than the first one.
On the whole, we think it is important that an inquiry into such an important topic as the anthropology of modernity be systematically pursued as each mode reacts to how another mode is understood. So, the postmodern obsession for avoiding systematicity at all costs, runs against the clarification that we wish to obtain.