Panarchy Etymology

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There are a number of relevant uses of the word "panarchy" in recent scholarship.

Mark Salter offers this definition:

"Panarchy means an inclusive, universal system of governance in which all may participate meaningfully" (Sewell and Salter, 1995).

"Panarchy" is a play on words that suggests many of the concepts inherent in panarchy. For example, "pan-" means "all," "whole," "global." Panarchy, then, would be an all-encompassing system.

"Pan" was also a Greek nature deity. Mark Salter, one of the co-coiners of the word, remarks

"The pan within panarchy evokes the playful Greek god Pan of sylvan and pastoral tranquillity, overseer of forests, shepherd of shepherds and their flocks. It thus connotes an archetypal steward of biospheric well-being....capable of sustaining generations yet unborn" (Sewell and Salter, 1995).

"PAN" is also an acronym for Personal Area Network. A personal area network is the interconnection of information technology devices within the range of an individual person, usually by wireless. PAN's make possible a truly decentralized and mobile global citizenry.

Gunderson and Holling, in their book Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and Nature also simultaneously coined the term, saying:

"The term [panarchy] was coined as an antithesis to the word hierarchy (literally, sacred rules). Our view is that panarchy is a framework of nature's rules, hinted at by the name of the Greek god of nature, Pan."


"[We needed to] invent another term that captures the adaptive and evolutionary nature of adaptive cycles...."

For Gunderson and Holling,

"The cross-scale, interdisciplinary, and dynamic nature of the theory has led us to coin the term panarchy for it. Its essential focus is to rationalize the interplay between change and persistence, between the predictable and unpredictable."

And finally, David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, in their work on "netwar," state that:

"The design is a heterarchy, but also what might be termed a 'panarchy.'"