preprint version available of "The Two Faces of American Power"

Loet Leydesdorff loet at LEYDESDORFF.NET
Thu Dec 16 02:58:22 EST 2004

** apologies for cross-postings


The  <> Two Faces of American

Military and Political  <>
Communication during the Cuban Missile Crisis 

Kybernetes (forthcoming)


<pdf-version <> >

Michaël Deinema & Loet Leydesdorff

Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam

Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX  Amsterdam, The Netherlands



•       Purpose: The mismatches between political discourse and military
momentum in the American handling of the Cuban missile crisis are explained
by using the model of the potential autopoiesis of subsystems. Under wartime
conditions, the codes of political and military communications can
increasingly be differentiated. 

•       Design/methodology/approach: The model of a further differentiation
between political and military power is developed on the basis of a detailed
description of the Cuban missile crisis. We introduce the concept of a
“semi-dormant autopoiesis” for the difference in the dynamics between
peacetime and wartime conditions.

•       Findings: Several dangerous incidents during the crisis can be
explained by a sociocybernetic model focusing on communication and control,
but not by using an organization-theoretical approach. The further
differentiation of the military as a subsystem became possible in the course
of the twentieth century because of ongoing learning processes about
previous wars. 

•       Practical implications: Politicians should not underestimate
autonomous military processes or the significance of standing orders. In
order to continually produce communications within the military,
communication partners are needed that stand outside of the hierarchy, and
this role can be fulfilled by an enemy. A reflexively imagined enemy can
thus reinforce the autopoiesis of the military subsystem.

•       Originality/value: The paper shows that civilian control over
military affairs has become structurally problematic and offers a
sociocybernetic explanation of the missile crisis. The potential alternation
in the dynamics under peacetime and wartime conditions brings historical
specificity back on the agenda of social systems theory.



Loet Leydesdorff 
Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR)
Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam
Tel.: +31-20- 525 6598; fax: +31-20- 525 3681 
 <mailto:loet at> loet at ;

 <> The Challenge of
Scientometrics ;  <> The
Self-Organization of the Knowledge-Based Society


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