Gregory Bateson on Relational Communication: From Octopuses to Nations
(1st ed. 2020)
Part of the Biosemiotics series
This book develops Gregory Bateson's ideas regarding "communication about relationship" in animals and human beings, and even nations. It bases itself on Bateson's theory of relational communication, as he described it in the zoosemiotics of octopus, mammals, birds, and human beings. This theory includes, for example, the roles of metaphor, play, analog and digital communication, metacommunication, and Laws of Form. It is organized around a letter from Gregory Bateson to his fellow cybernetic thinker Warren McCulloch at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In this letter Bateson argued that what we would today call zoosemiotics, including Bateson's own (previously unpublished) octopus research, should be made a basis for understanding the relationship between the two blocs of the Cold War. Accordingly the book shows how Bateson understood interactive processes in the biosemiotics of conflict and peacemaking, which are analyzed using examples from recent animal studies, from primate studies, and from cultural anthropology. The Missile Crisis itself is described in terms of Bateson's critique of game theory which he felt should be modified by an understanding of the zoosemiotics of relational communication. The book also includes a previously unpublished piece by Gregory Bateson on wolf behavior and metaphor/ abduction.