The threats which the world faces today, are, the author argues, all threats to the maintenance of systemic relations; the minimal changes necessary to avoid crisis in the natural and social environment, must derive from a greater understanding of the systemic nature of human history and the cultural roots of human standards.
The conditions for survival are cultural rather than technological; they require from societies, groups and individuals the ability to reset their appreciative systems, their standards of what to expect, what to attempt, and what to put up with, to an extent which people have not previously achieved or needed.
Part 1: The Rise of Human Systems: The history of systemic thinking; The characteristics of open systems – regulation, organic and technological; The emergence of ecological systems; The emergence of human systems; The peculiarities of human systems; Appreciation and action; The bonding of human systems; Four dimensions of instability in human systems.
Part 2: Western systems since the Enlightenment: Regulating political systems; Three decaying hopes; The emergence of the autonomous individual; Autonomy, alienation and authenticity; The declining force of membership.
Part 3: The Threat to Human Systems: Seven escalating instabilities; Unstable relations with the natural milieu; Unstable relations in the human milieu; War, development, inflation, unemployment; The changing role of the technologist; Analysts, modellers and governors; Understanding, deciding and policy-making; How different are human systems?