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Forms of Coupling

It makes a difference if you occasionally meet in a loose round or whether you have been married for forty years. Equally, whether you haggle your way as a freelancer from contract to contract, or whether you are an official in the customs office, does too.

The more ‘firmly’ two systems are coupled together, the more unlikely it is that they can ignore each other. The human body is very firmly coupled with the natural environment and, therefore, reacts reliably and quickly to the changes in oxygen content or temperature. With looser coupling – maybe I have a warm tent with a supply of oxygen – alternatives can be utilised.

The distinction between loose and firm coupling belongs to the fundamentals of system-theory thinking. It allows you to conceptualise, theoretically, power relationships, dependencies and reaction probabilities, as well as to understand evolutionary developments. For the purposes of meta-theoretical considerations about change, this distinction is important in order to observe where and how systems overlook possibilities of autonomy, where they feel the need to react, although there is none, and what function sustained conflict symbioses (=firm coupling with the aid of disputes) can have for the system.