Stafford Beer (1927-2002) was a world-famous Professor of Cybernetics (the science of effective organization & regulation of large complex systems), specialising in holistic management & organisational transformation. His most high profile project was applying these ideas to the Chilean economy under the Socialist President Salvador Allende. Stafford was also a painter & a poet.
In 1980 the bookseller David Whittaker first wrote to Stafford. A lively correspondence ensued & for 20 years they exchanged enthusiasms, books, poems & jokes (as well as polishing off more than a few cases of wine together). In a mutually enhancing friendship, despite the difference in years & academic stature, they both learned through an animated playful dialogue.
About 50 of Stafford’s letters are reproduced here. They show his enormous generosity & receptiveness & this collection will prove of value to anyone interested in some of the lesser known, but revealing, aspects of the mind of a great twentieth-century thinker.
The book also includes a unique interview with the highly influential musician & producer Brian Eno. He talks openly about his own friendship with Beer & how he utilised many cybernetic concepts in his music making.
Paperback, 64 pages, illustrated – £12 + pp
Relation is the stuff of system
Stafford Beer was a passionate & compassionate social scientist who fought tirelessly against the forces of reductionism, dualism & the creed of greed. He was dedicated to the unity of all human experience & investigated the many ways in which our languages, models & paradigms fragment perception, separating us from each other & the world. Beer’s approach was dynamic & systemic: everything connects to everything else. He pioneered the use of cybernetics & systems theory to increase our awareness & understanding of how complex systems learn, adapt & evolve – or fail.
David Whittaker has assembled a unique selection of Beer’s writings, including many papers, lectures, essays, reviews & forewords that have been virtually unobtainable elsewhere. Also included is Beer’s poetry & his paintings to give a more rounded picture of the whole man, as well as a detailed chronology of his life. Think Before You Think is the largest miscellany of Beer’s work to date & brings a fresh perspective to the man & his work.
The musician Brian Eno has also provided an insightful foreword.
Paperback, 384 pages, illustrated in colour – £25 + pp
Stafford & David at Cwarel Isaf in 1993
In 2009 Brian Eno invited David to his studio to talk about Stafford Beer’s work as part of a BBC TV Arena documentary