Integrative levels, theory of

A metaphysical theory about the nature of reality. The origin of the theory of integrative levels may be traced at least as far back as the positivism of Auguste Comte and is clearly set out in the 'First Principles' of Herbert Spencer (1862). The Classification Research Group adopted the theory. It is unclear, however, if it has had specific implications in classification research in library classification, although Mills & Ball claim that the Bliss Bibliographic Classification (BC2) is based on this theory:


"Bliss Bibliographic Classification (BC2) is an internationally accepted detailed general classification which is based on clear and comprehensive principles for both its overall structure (main-class order) and the internal structure of each and every class. The former is based on the theory of integrative levels first advanced by Comte. The second is based on the revolutionary theory of facetted classification developed by Ranganathan and elaborated by the CRG - (British) Classification Research Group."  (Mills & Ball, 2007, back cover).





Aronson, L. R., 1984. "Levels of integration and organization: a reevaluation of the evolutionary scale". In G. Greenberg and E. Tobach, (eds.) Behavioral Evolution and Integrative Levels. Erlbaum.


Austin, D. (1969). The theory of integrative levels reconsidered as the basis of a general classification. In Classification and Information Control, edited by The Classification Research Group, 81-95. London: The Library Association.


Feibleman, J. K. (1965). The integrative levels in nature. In Focus on Information & Communication, edited by Barbara Kyle, 27-41. London: ASLIB.


Feibleman, J. K. (1985). Theory of integrative levels. In Theory of Subject Analysis, edited by Lois Mai Chan et al, 136-42. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited.


Foskett, D. J. (1961). Classification and integrative levels. In The Sayers Memorial Volume, edited by D. J. Foskett and B. I. Palmer. London: Library Association.


Foskett, D. J. (1978). The theory of integrative levels and its relevance to the design of information systems. ASLIB Proceedings 30(6): 202-208.


Gnoli, C. &  Doldi, V. (2005). Integrative level classification. (Visited 10-01-2006).


Huckaby, S. A. S. (1972). An enquiry into the theory of integrative levels as the basis for a generalized classification scheme. Journal of Documentation 28(2) 97-106.


Mills, J. & Ball, C. (2007). Bliss Bibliographic Classification. Class W. The Arts. München: K. G. Sauer Verlag.


Needham, J. (1937/1943). Integrative Levels: A Revaluation of the Idea of Progress. 1937 Herbert Spencer Lecture. Reprinted in: Needham, J. (1943): Time: the Refreshing River. (Essays and Addressses, 1932-1942). London, George Allen & Unwin.


Spencer, H. (1862-93). A System of Synthetic Philosophy. (Vol. 1: "First principles")


Spiteri, L. F. (1995). The Classification Research Group and the Theory of Integrative Levels. Katharine Sharp Review ,#1, Summer 1995, 1-6. Available: (Visited January 1, 2004).




Integrative level classification. Research project.





See also: Integrative level classification ; Systems theory (Epistemological lifeboat)





Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 13-08-2008