Eric Jantsch on Disciplines and their Relationships

Eric Jantsch outlines different relationships between disciplines (this is a summary, not a quotation):

1. Multidisciplinarity: A problem is subdivided, and different disciplines apply their expertise to it. There is no real cooperation or coordination. There are several problems here: someone has to define the issue, and issues are always defined from a point of view. So, for example, the problem of urban air pollution can ultimately be a technical one (even if social aspects are included), requiring technical solutions, or a political one, requiring political solutions. There are other options. Second, in this approach, people may not really talk to each other at all. No understanding is built up, and disciplinary methods or assumptions are never questioned. So, there may be a short-term solution, but we do not learn anything from the experience.

2.
Pluridisciplinarity: Cooperation but no coordination.

3.
Crossdisciplinarity: Rigid control from one discipline (i.e., coordination, but on the terms of one discipline). This happens when the discourse of one discipline is used, and everything is translated into it.

4.
Interdisciplinarity: Control from an agreed-upon constructed "higher level"

5.
Transdisciplinarity: Eric Jantsch defines this as "The co-ordination of all disciplines and interdisciplines in the education/innovation system on the basis of a generalized axiomatics (introduced from the purposive level down) and an emerging epistemological pattern." There are many levels, many goals, and all are coordinated toward a common system purpose. It is only in the latter two (inter- and trans-) that the metaphor changes from mechanical to organic. The latter two have a life.


(from Eric Jantsch, "Towards interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in education and innovation" in Apostel, Leo, Guy Berger, Asa Briggs, and Guy Michaud, eds. (1972) Interdisciplinarity: Problems of teaching and research in universities. France: Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, p. 106.)

Clearly, Jantsch thinks that transdisciplinarity is the goal of the relationship between disciplines.