Mihajlo D. Mesarovic

Serbian academic
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Mihajlo D. Mesarovic (born July 2, 1928) was a Serbian scientist, professor of Systems Engineering and Mathematics at Case Western Reserve University and pioneer in the field of Mathematical General Systems Theory.


  • Since it can be argued that both science and engineering are concerned with the study of real systems and their behavior, it follows that a general theory should be concerned with the study of general systems... It suffices for the present discussion to consider a general system as an abstract analogue or model of a class of real systems. General systems theory is then a theory of general models.
    • Mesarovic (1964) cited in: Shatrughna P. Sinha (1991) Instant encyclopaedia of geography. 1. Introduction to geography. Mittal Publications, p. 467
  • General systems theory deals with the most fundamental concepts and aspects of systems. Many theories dealing with more specific types of systems (e.g., dynamical systems, automata, control systems, game-theoretic systems, among many others) have been under development for quite some time. General systems theory is concerned with the basic issues common to all these specialized treatments. Also, for truly complex phenomena, such as those found predominantly in the social and biological sciences, the specialized descriptions used in classical theories (which are based on special mathematical structures such as differential or difference equations, numerical or abstract algebras, etc.) do not adequately and properly represent the actual events. Either because of this inadequate match between the events and types of descriptions available or because of the pure lack of knowledge, for many truly complex problems one can give only the most general statements, which are qualitative and too often even only verbal. General systems theory is aimed at providing a description and explanation for such complex phenomena.
    • Mihajlo D. Mesarovic and Y. Takahare (1975) General Systems Theory, Mathematical foundations. Academic Press. Cited in: Franz Pichler, Roberto Moreno Diaz (1993. Computer Aided Systems Theory. p. 134

Mankind at the Turning Point, (1974)


Mesarovic, Mihajlo D., and Eduard C. Pestel. Mankind at the turning point: The Second Report to The Club of Rome, (1974).

  • The concept of the “organic growth” of mankind, as we have proposed in this report, is intended as a contribution toward achieving that end. Were mankind to embark on a path of organic growth, the world would emerge as a system of interdependent and harmonious parts, each making its own unique contributions, be it in economics, resources, or culture.
    ... Such an approach must start from and preserve the world’s regional diversity. Paths of development, region-specific rather than based on narrow national interests, must be designed to lead to a sustainable balance between the interdependent world-regions and to global harmony – that is, to mankind’s growth as an “organic entity” from its present barely embryonic state.
  • There is a much more subtle and completely novel threat to man's survival that looms, every year more menacingly, beside that of an atomic holocaust; the cluster of world-wide problems - not only material in nature - growing at an incredible speed when viewed in historical perspective, and called by The Club of Rome the "problématique humaine. In fact, we believe that even without the atomic world war, human existence as we know it is threatened if no way can be found to resolve this crisis syndrome.
    • p.xi; cited in: Robert C. Tucker (1995) Politics As Leadership. p. 116
  • In Nature organic growth proceeds according to a “master plan,” a “blueprint.” According to this master plan diversification among cells is determined by the requirements of the various organs; the size and shape of the organs and, therefore, their growth processes are determined by their function, which in turn depends on the needs of the whole organism.
    Such a “master plan” is missing from the process of growth and development of the world system... The masterplan has yet to evolve through the existence of options by people who constitute the world-system.
    • p. 7 As cited in: Charles T. Rubin (1998) The Green Crusade: Rethinking the Roots of Environmentalism, p. 143
  • There is no such concept as one limit for the entice system: rather different parts of the system face different limits at different times with the traumatic experiences for the entire system depending on the interrelationship of the constituent parts - the collapse, if it occurs, would he regional rather than global, even though the entire global system would be affected.
  • Isn't it legitimate to ask, as representatives of the developing countries, whether there should be maximum limits consumption...?
    • p. 69; Quoted in: B. Goudzwaard, Jerzy Śliziński, H. M. de Lange (1995) Beyond Poverty and Affluence: Toward an Economy of Care With a Twelve-Step Program for Economic Recovery. p. 115
  • We found that technological optimism is the common and the most dangerous reaction to our findings... Technology can relieve the symptoms of the problem without affecting the underlying causes. Faith in technology as the ultimate solution to all problems can thus divert our attention from the most fundamental problem— the problem of growth in a finite system- and prevent us from taking effective action to solve it... We would deplore an unreasoned rejection of the benefits of technology as strongly as we argue here against an unreasoned acceptance of them. Perhaps the best summary of our position is the motto of the Sierra Club; not blind opposition to progress but opposition to blind progress.
    Taking no action to solve these problems is equivalent of taking strong action. Every day of continued exponential growth brings the world system closer to the ultimate limits of that growth. A decision to do nothing is a decision to increase the risk of collapse.
    The way to proceed is clear... [we possess] all that is necessary to create a totally new form of human society... the two missing ingredients are the realistic long-term goal... and the human will to achieve that goal.
    • p. 88, quoted in: Martin Bridgstock, David Burch, John Forge, John Laurent, Ian Lowe (1998) Science, Technology and Society: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. pp. 245-246. See also The Limits to Growth
  • To grow or not to grow is neither a well-defined nor a relevant question until the location, sense, and subject of growing and the growth process itself are defined
    • Cited in: John Cunningham Wood (1993) Thorstein Veblen: Critical Assessments. p. 408
  • [Another significant aspect of the concept of growth is the distinction that Mesarovic and Pestel draw between "undifferentiated" and "organic" growth. The former type of growth, according to these authors, consists of mere replication of cells by cellular division, usually expotentially, with an increase in quantity alone. The latter type of growth] involves a process of differentiation, which means that various groups of cells begin to differ in structure and function... During and after differentiation the number of cells can still increase, and the organs grow in size, but while some organs grow, others might celine.
    • As cited in: Joel Jay Kassiola (1990) The Death of Industrial Civilization. p. 48

Quotes about Mihajlo D. Mesarovic

  • General systems theory is considered as a formal theory (Mesarovic, Wymore), a methodology (Ashby, Klir), a way of thinking (Bertalanffy, Churchman), a way of looking at the world (Weinberg), a search for an optimal simplification (Ashby, Weinberg), didactic method (Boulding, Klir, Weinberg), metalanguage (Logren), and profession (Klir).
    • George Klir cited in: James T. Ziegenfuss (1983) Patients' rights and organizational models: sociotechnical systems research on mental health programs. p. 104
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