Erich Jantsch

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Jantsch, Erich
Erich Jantsch photographed for NW Mag in May 1972
Born 2 January 1929
Wien, Austria
Died 1980
Berkeley, California
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Erich Jantsch (8 January 1929, Vienna – 12 December 1980, Berkeley, California) was an Austrian astrophysicist. A leader in the social systems design movement in Europe in the 1970s.[1]

In the mid-1960s his increasing concern regarding the future led him to study forecasting techniques. He did not believe that forecasting or science could be neutral.[2]

Described as "quiet and modest", but as an "original polymath and genius" by Ralph H. Abraham in "The Genesis of Complexity".[3]

Jantsch's Design for Evolution is described as "a seminal work on general evolution theory (GET)" by Ralph H. Abraham in "The Genesis of Complexity". [3]

Jantsch's Gauthier Lectures in System Science given in May 1979 at the University of California in Berkeley became the basis for his book The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution, published by Pergamon Press in 1980 as part of the System Science and World Order Library edited by Ervin László. The book deals with self-organization as a unifying evolutionary paradigm that incorporates cosmology, biology, sociology, psychology, and consciousness. Jantsch is inspired by and draws on the work of Ilya Prigogine concerning dissipative structures and nonequilibrium states.

Now out of print for many years, The Self-organizing Universe has been influential among interdisciplinary proponents of biomimicry alternatives to understanding science like holism, co-evolution, and self-organization. It was extensively cited in Ken Wilber's integral philosophy book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution.

Jantsch died in Berkeley, California, on December 12, 1980, "after a short but painful illness"[4][5] and before his book, The Evolutionary Vision, was published.[3] Magoroh Maruyama wrote in a eulogy,

"Jantsch succumbed at the age of 51 to the material and physical hardships that worsened progressively during the last decade of his prolific and still young life. This makes us realize again the harsh and brutal conditions of life some of the innovators must endure. ... Let us face squarely the fact that Jantsch was given no paid academic job during a decade of his residence in Berkeley—a town considered to be a foremost spawning ground of scientific and philosophical innovations." Jantsch penned his own epitaph: "Erich Jantsch died on __ in Berkeley after a painful illness. He was almost 52 and grateful for a very rich, beautiful and complete life. His ashes have been scattered over the sea, the cradle of evolution."[6]


  • Visiting Lecturer of Planning and Research Planner of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley.[7]
  • Research Associate at MIT, where he studied the future of MIT and the American University.[8]
  • Consultant to OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development); prepared studies on the world food problem, technological forecasting, higher education, etc.[7]
  • Lectured widely in Europe, North and South America, Near East and Japan.[7]
  • Advisor to twenty governments, several international organizations and research institutes.[7]
  • 1970- Richard Merton Professor at the Technical University in Hanover, Germany.[8]
  • 1971- Austrian delegate to the first session of the UN Committee on Natural Resources.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Jantsch was born in Vienna, Austria on January 8, 1929.

He emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-fifties, but did not receive his green card until 1979.[9]

Jantsch was without a job for the last few years of his life, living in an "apartment in Berkeley: dark and depressing room,with massage parlors above and below; a typewriter, a plant, and scattered copies of his favorite newspaper, Neue Zurcher Zeitung".[9] It was here that he finished his last book, The Self-Organizing Universe. He made a living and supported his mother "by giving lectures ail over the world, through writing, and by relying on a few friends".[9]

Jantsch died on December 12, 1980 in Berkeley, California, " alone and lonely, abandoned by friends, misunderstood by colleagues".[9] His ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.


  • 1951: Doctorate in Astrophysics, University of Vienna.


In 1974, Jantsch stayed at the Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, "where he was one of the first distinguished residents invited by the Rockefeller Foundation".[9] Jantsch "served as a consultant to the Directorate of Scientific Development of the O.E.C.D. and as a member of the executive committee of the Club of Rome".[9]


  • 1966: Technological Forecasting in Perspective, Working Document". DAS/SPR/66.12, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France.
  • 1967: Technological forecasting in perspective, OECD, 1967.
  • 1967: "Forecasting Future". Science Journal, 3(10), 40.
  • 1968: "Technological forecasting for planning and its institutional implications". Ekistics, 26(153), 150-161.
  • 1968: "Technological forecasting in corporate planning. Long Range Planning, 1(1), 40-50.
  • 1968: "Integrating Forecasting and Planning through a Function-Oriented Approach". Technological Forecasting for Industry and Government. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • 1969: "Perspectives of Planning".
  • 1969: "Integrative planning of society and technology: the emerging role of the university". Futures, 1(3), 185-190.
  • 1969: "Integrative Planning for the" Joint Systems" of Society and Technology--The Emerging Role of the University".
  • 1969: "New organizational forms for forecasting. Technological Forecasting, 1(2), 151-161.
  • 1969: "The organization of technological forecasting in the Soviet Union:: Notes from a brief visit". Technological Forecasting, 1(1), 83-86.
  • 1969: "Adaptive institutions for shaping the future". Perspectives on Planning. Jantsch, E., ed. OECD, Paris.
  • 1969: "The chasm ahead". Futures, 1(4), 314-317.
  • 1970: "Inter- and Transdisciplinary University: A Systems Approach to Education and Innovation", Policy Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Winter, 1970), pp. 403-42
  • 1970: "From forecasting and planning to policy sciences", Policy Sciences, 1(1), 31-47.
  • 1970: "Toward a methodology for systemic forecasting". Technological Forecasting, 1(4), 409-419.
  • 1970: "Science and Human Purpose".
  • 1970: "Technological forecasting at national level in Japan:: Notes from a brief visit". Technological Forecasting, 1(3), 325-327.
  • 1971: "The Planning of Change", in Policy Sciences.
  • 1971: "World Corporation-Total Commitment". COLUMBIA JOURNAL OF WORLD BUSINESS, 6(3), 5-12.
  • 1971: "World dynamics". Futures, 3(2), 162-169.
  • 1972: Education for design". Futures, 4(3), 232-255.
  • 1972: The organization of forecasting in Romania: Notes from a brief visit". Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 4(1), 19-22.
  • 1972: Technological planning and social futures, Wiley, 1972. ISBN 0-470-43997-1
  • 1972: "Towards interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in education and innovation. Interdisciplinarity", Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities. OECD, Paris, 97-121.
  • 1972: "Forecasting and the systems approach: A critical survey". Policy Sciences, 3(4), 475-498.
  • 1972: "The futurists" (Interview with E. Jantsch featured in this book) Toffler, A. (Ed.). (1972). New York: Random House.
  • 1973: "Enterprise and environment". Industrial Marketing Management, 2(2), 113-130.
  • 1973: "Forecasting and systems approach: a frame of reference". Management Science, 19(12), 1355-1367.
  • 1974: "Organising the human world: an evolutionary outlook". Futures, 6(1), 4-15.
  • 1975: Design for Evolution: Self-Organization and Planning in the Life of Human Systems (The International Library of Systems Theory and Philosophy), George Braziller Inc, 1975. ISBN 0-8076-0758-4
  • 1975: The quest for absolute values". Futures, 7(6), 463-474.
  • 1976: "Introduction and summary. Evolution and Consciousness, Human Systems in Transition", Addison-Wesley Pubi., Reading, 1-8.
  • 1976: "Modes of Learning. Human Systems In Transition", edited by Frlch Jantsch and Conrad Waddlngton, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • 1976: "Evolution and consciousness: Human systems in transition"
  • 1976: "Evolution: Self-realization through self-transcendence".
  • 1976: "Evolving images of man: Dynamic guidance for the mankind process". E. Jantsch CH Waddington: Evolution and Consciousness-Human systems in Transition, Addison-Wesley.
  • 1976: "Evaluation and 36 Systems and Models Consciousness". Jantsch, E., & Waddington, C. H.
  • 1976: "Self Realisation Through Self Transcendence". Evolution and Consciousness.
  • 1976: "Self-transcendence: new light on the evolutionary paradigm.
  • 1980: Ethics and evolution". The North American Review, 14-18.
  • 1980: The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution, New York: Pergamon Press, 1980. hardcover ISBN 0-08-024312-6 ; softcover ISBN 0-08-024311-8
  • 1980: "The unifying paradigm behind autopoiesis, dissipative structures, hyper-and ultracycles". Autopoiesis, dissipative structures, and social orders. Westview Press, Boulder.
  • 1980: "Interdisciplinarity: Dreams and Reality". Prospects: Quarterly Review of Education, 10(3), 304-12.
  • 1980: "The evolutionary vision: Toward a unifying paradigm of physical, biological and sociological evolution".
  • 1981: "Autopoiesis: A central aspect of dissipative self-organization". Zeleny, M. Autopoiesis: a theory of living organization. New York: North Holland, 65-88.
  • 1981: The Evolutionary Vision (Aaas Selected Symposium), Westview Press. ISBN 0-86531-140-4
  • 1981: The Evolutionary Vision: Toward a Unifying Paradigm of Physical, Biological and Sociocultural Evolution. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981.
    • 1981: "Unifying principles of evolution". In The Evolutionary Vision, 83—116.
  • 1982: "From self-reference to self-transcendence: The evolution of self-organization dynamics". Self-organization and dissipative structure (University of Texas Press, Austin), 344353.


  1. ^ Christakis, A.N.; Bausch, K. C. (2006). How people harness their collective wisdom and power to construct the future in co-laboratories of democracy. IAP. ISBN 1593114826. 
  2. ^ Trivia Library - Future Predictions of Famous Scientist Dr. Erich Jantsch by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace "The People's Almanac" 1975 - 1981
  3. ^ a b c Abraham, Ralph H. "The Genesis of Complexity" (PDF). Visual Math Institute. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Capra, F. (1981). Erich Jantsch 1929–1980. Futures, 13(2), 150-151.
  5. ^ Capra, Fritjof. "Erich Jantsch 1929-1980" (PDF). Futures. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Linstone, H. A., Maruyama, M., & Kaje, R. (1981). Erich Jantsch 1929–1980. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 19(1), 1-5.
  7. ^ a b c d e Jantsch, Erich (1972). Technological Planning and Social Futures. London, SW: Associated Business Programmes Ltd. p. cover. ISBN 0304290149. 
  8. ^ a b Jantsch, Erich (February 1, 1970). "Inter- and Transdisciplinary University: A systems approach to Education and Innovation". Higher Education Quarterly 1 (4): 403–428. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Zeleny, Milan. "Erich Jantsch (1929-1980)" (PDF). Human Systems Management. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 

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