The origin and foundation of system theory
System theory as a general frame of inquiry
System and environment
Living System Theory
Boundaries of Living System theory
General system theory
Social Entropy Theory (SET)
16A comparison of the theories
In this paper, we analyze Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory by comparing and contrasting the analysis of Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory and its influence on social networking and modern social systems. Other than comparing and contrasting the theories, we synthesize and integrate Bertalanffy’s system theory with those of Bailey, Miller and Weick to gain a greater understanding of social systems and the environments in which they interact and exist and a greater appreciation of modern social systems structure.
The trend of change evidence in the new 21st century shows how system theory and the study of someone’s thoughts relations is critically important in the understanding of the changing nature of human cognitive. Most speculations which normally make a good percentage of how we view issues and how we interpret them and condition of the depth of our awareness are shifting quickly as the nature of human relations transforms in this paper, we analyze Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory by comparing and contrasting the analysis of Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory and its influence on social networking and modern social systems. Other than comparing and contrasting the theories, we synthesize and integrate Bertalanffy’s system theory with those of Bailey, Miller and Weick to gain a greater understanding of social systems and the environments in which they interact and exist and a greater appreciation of modern social systems structure.
However, the term general system theory was officially started in 1920s by a scientist known as Ludwig von Bertalanffy. From that time many authors have also added a good number of writings on the system theory, with single addition of these writings on the development of system theory assuming a totally different direction. The way Eastern religious and philosophical thoughts relate and system theory was discovered in a number of books written by a good number of different authors such Janna Macy’s Mutual Causality which is in Buddhism and General System Theory.
In addition, General System Theory (GST) was originated from a research carried out of a number of subjects such as social science, mathematics, philosophy, engineering as well as biology. As many subjects emerged, the goals, objectives and the role of general system theory also started to change suddenly. Even though Bertalanffy started thinking about general system theory way back in the 1930s, he actually didn’t explain the entire concept and his vision until later on in the AAAS conference held in 1954. According to Ray (2000) von Bertalanffy’s vision was to get a number of biologically minded individuals or scientists to consider the work they are doing from a more holistic perspective. His thought was to work out on the goal of construction mechanism which can be used in the reduction of duplication of theoretical frameworks within the context of science. The whole idea was to have general system theory to work in away which can help in uniting the philosophers to become very committed to building a serious theory (Ray, 2000).
Ray (2000) noted general system theory came out of researchers’ abilities, in carrying out research on a number of homologies between works in physical, social science and biological. General System theory foundation is based in much stronger contest in the collection of the ideas, problems, principles, methods and tools techniques which are links directly with the systems. However, as outlined by Ray (2000) system is a composition of many components which are somehow connected to form a whole concept. The systems therefore, started as a result of Newtonian method of separating an object into a tinny particle, and then use part of the individual particles to understand the behavior of the same particular particles while completely ignoring the interactions between particles. Moreover, another different definition was provided by Miller (2001) as a collection of more related assumptions, propositions and definitions which can work with reality as a complex interaction of matter and energy.
Mathematically, general system theory is noted to have originated from a certain class of theories. Moreover, the tools which are used in the definition of system are prescribed system components and their relationships. The idea of system is introduced systematically, which make its behavior and properties available for more study in a specific manner. General systems theory above all is more useful to systems with goal seeking behavior, biological and social systems are the primary domains of such a goal seeking behavior. The right model of system are mostly to be made easy to understand, to build a high level of abstraction which can make the calculation more tractable (Ray, 2000-page, 25).
But, Laszlo & Krippnern (1998) noted general system theory is away or procedure which is based on methods of the universe in which all the sections are mutually related. (Laszlo & Krippnern, 1998). The visible surge effect inbuilt in system responses also normally do impacts systems of which the original system is one of the central part. Systems however, are said to be a circuits of information flow. These circuits of a system which are involve in the receiving of input originated from the environment, therefore the opinion of that input are referred to the input which is being referred to the available codes and the system response.
Most frequently, it’s argued that system theory has been there for a period of time, than the periods it was supposed to in accordance to science. In actual perspective, looking into detail on the depth of the kind of claims, there are visible disappointments to be dealt with. However, in some quarter’s system theory has been honored as the best way of handling the fragmentation and specialization of science (Langlois, 1982). It said, system theory has failed to initiate any different of issues which are under the control of an organized unit. In fact, it’s more likely to be possible to say that system theory itself has come to understand the diversity and complexity of modern scientific investigations (Langlois, 1982).
However, Langlois (1982) defined system theory as the real methods of conducting issues which is impossible outside the context of a certain subject. There are a number of editions that make up system theories that would be system theorists. System theory is therefore can be defined according to Langlois (1982) as the study of a number combined subjects on the abstract of organization phenomena, spatial, type, independent of their substance and their chronological scale of existence. The systems carry out study on the idea of common which are difficult or most unique entities and models of mathematics which can be used to describe those (Langlois, 1982). it’s said that system theory normally contains four things. The first of the four things is an object. However, the object has a number of sections or parts, elements, variable available within the system. The object might be in physical form or abstract or both, but mostly that depend on the nature or type of the system. Second, there are certain characters such as qualities or the properties of the system and its object which exist in the system theory. System has also globalized in its relationship with the object. The fourth stated that systems are in existence surrounding.
According to Langlois (1982) system is a combination of a set of things which can affect each other within certain surrounding to form a larger pattern that is more unique from any other parts. The fundamental systems which interact closely with organizational analysis contain series of stages used in an input, output and throughput which shows the idea of openness or closeness. It frequently said that a closed system does not keep in touch with its surroundings. Therefore it does not consume a lot of information and which make likely to weaken and then vanish. In addition, an open system gets data, which it then uses to communicate dynamically with its surroundings. Again, openness do result to the increase its chances of propelling and prospering. A number of system uniqueness is the presence of wholeness and interdependence which is more than the total of all its sections, perceiving, causes, chain of influence, correlations, hierarchy, suprasystems and subsystems, control, self-regulation, goal oriented interchanging with surroundings, need for balance or homeostasis, input or output, change and adaptability of morphogenesis and equifinality, which bring a different ways of achieving such a goal. The varieties of network which exist are line, hierarchy, and commune and dictate networks. Communication in this case is taken as united process but not as a lonely event.
The origin and foundation of system theory
Laszlo & Krippner (1998) categorically noted that system theory begun in the 19th and first half of 21st century, during the times when the world was seen to be more chaotic. These chaos was used blindly to foretold and give judgments on the ultimate reality, with life as an accidental precipitation of any physical processes as a mind of most occurrences. However, in the most recent theory of evolution which discusses the living world appears as the result of chance and an output of different randomly selected natural mills. This kind of development came to present as a result of the need of more subjects or topics in areas such as cybernetic, general system theory, information theory, theories of games which is needed in most decision making process in line with real applications. In mathematics techniques however, there are a number of general assumption which are insufficient and most of the time very contradict themselves (Laszlo & Krippner, 1982).
Again, Laszlo (1982) outlined that von Bertalanffy considered the idea of organization to be involved at various stages in the expression of natural system. This could be highlighted from his first statement on the system which he made between the years 1925-1926, during the time when similar thinking of organism was being invented by Alfred North Whitehead.
In more precisely, particularly when such statement was being issued, biologist Paul Weiss also started the process to come up with another system approach based on the significant of finding of the intangible incorporation that offers the complete knowledge of system theory which is more consistently understandable. More than any other scientists or mathematicians, von Bertalanffy, Whitehead and Weiss became more aggressive and with a lot of potential and enthusiastic to develop a general science of organized complication. In completing the much awaited result von Bertalanffy gave out the whole formulation of a general theory of system.
However, the ‘General System Theory’ was first launched at a philosophy seminar which took place at the University of Chicago in 1937, but its publication was hold for more years and until after World War II. It was until 1960s when system thinking started to be recognized as one of the most classic efforts at scientific combination and formulation of theory on a number of subjects which work hand in hand to form a system (Bailey, 2006-page 2).
System theory as a legitimate general frame of inquiry
A number of studies which have been previously conducted on the whole idea of system theory methods and its uniqueness to interpersonal, intrapersonal, intergroup and human nature, the repercussions indicate that interactions carried out without reducing the perception experience to the level of individual stimuli. General systems likely take by a number scientist as series of immediate surfacing in parallelism in various subjects which interpret reality and consequently offer away for the combined study of complication in human experience (Bailey, 2006, pg. 3).
As a matter of concern for any scientist, system theory is viewed as a field of inquiry dealing with the idea and combination of exploration happenings and events, more so system theory contains and deals with both epistemological and ontological situations. But instead of starting one between epistemological or ontology, it became more appropriate to use reminiscent according to Greek point of gnosiology, which deals with the holistic and integrative discovery of a number of happenings and events. However, there are sides of the system approach that are seen as ontological and characteristics are like epistemological and the characteristics that was once seen both and are supposed not to be circumscribed to either both parties (Bailey, 2006 p.3).
System and environment
Bertalanffy (2008) described the term environment in system theory as the group of a good number of all objects in a change whose efforts of contribution affects the system itself and those objects whose contributions are perceived to change by the behavior of the system. It was emphasized again by Bertalanffy (2008) that environment of each and every social system contains three stages of purpose. These purposes are of the system sections which make up the systems, and the systems where its sections are being found or exist, and lastly the suprasystem of systems (Bertalanffy, 2008, p.23).
This however ignite the question of how systems thinkers and scientists can articulate their opinion of social reality in terms of the meaning of system and the meaning of environment as portrayed by the system theory. Analysts and scientists in a broad view of systems science have a vivid opinion of their intended mission as a united section of the social system in which they work. In conducting a system analysis of any problem or situation, it is more appropriate to start solving from the problem, not from a preconceived method. Immediately the demonstration of these problems have been identified and described, they can be quickly go a head inward to the sub-systems and outward to the surrounding (Bertalanffy, 2008, pg. 23).
Living System Theory
Living System Theory according to Miller (2001) is described as an envoy of the older work of system ways of dealings, but it might also be seen as an out dated branch of systems association. Besides, through combination living system theory by cutting edge with technology and most of the upcoming systemic research areas, the theory may still serve as one of the most respected theories and most stretchy equipment in the structuring and development of human support systems and man machine for symbiotic software (Miller, 2001, pg. 23).
The living theory represents early ways of systematic development from the older times and to the more primitive functionalist system approaches which were used in the sixties to more elaborate to the post modern ones of current time. It is argue that, the main problem is mush bigger than the community of system researchers and practicing systemists, so understanding it fully might be quite challenging. Living System Theory (LST) was established after a thorough search for the important process and subsystems which are common to all forms of life, the way it indicated in cells, organism, organs, groups and communities (Miller, 1978). The theory is believed to offer an extraction of the critical processes and structures required by all forms of life. Although living system theory is likely to be complex and analytical the way any good theory, it can be very important a time. In fact living system theory has already been used in a number of ways (Miller, 2001, pg. 24).
Boundaries of Living System theory
Miller (2001, p. 2) noted Living System Theory can be described base on the analysis of twenty critical subsystems of the eight hierarchical levels. The hierarchical levels are the organs, organism, group, organization, community, supranational system and society. There are also twenty other twenty critical subsystems which are used to process matter-energy and information, eight of subsystem are used to process the matter energy and ten are used in the processing of the information. Boundary and the reproducer are the two subsystems which are used to produce both matter energy and information. However, ingestor, distributor, converter, producer, matter-energy storage, extruder, motor, and supporter are the eight subsystem used in making matter energy (Miller, 2001).
In living system theory, there are only ten subsystems which are used to process information. Out of the ten subsystems, input transducer, the internal transducer, decoder, the associate, the encoder, the time, the output and decider are the only one being used in the processing of information. The function and importance of boundary in the self reference of the living system, is show through the curser perusal of the eight subsystems that are used to process matter energy and other subsystem for processing information. For example, Miller’s (1992) define the term ingestor by using boundary as the subsystem which brings matter-energy across boundary from the environment. Without knowledge of boundary someone would not be able understand or define ingestor and the seven matter energy process subsystem.
For instant, boundary is referred indirectly by Miller (1992, p.3) as an input or the environment. Although Miller didn’t use word boundary in any of the definitions, the terms such as input, output and environment cannot be defined without the boundary. But the only two matter energy subsystem which are define alone as internal entities without any direct or indirect referring to a boundary are the matter energy storage subsystem and the supporter.
General system theory
A system is noted by Laszlo (2003) to be asset of highly interconnected components that show properties or form a whole unit as opposed to operating as individual components. This definition is deemed valid for an organism, a cell, a society or even a galaxy. The concept of system thinking is therefore noted to apprehend our world. It is noted by Flood at al (1990,p. 4) that a system is a framework of individual or group thought that helps use in dealing with complex things and situations holistically. Whenever this concept is formalized in a conventional, explicit and definite form, it gets termed as system theory.
System theory is noted to provide a body of knowledge that goes well beyond the disciplinary boundaries. Bertalanffy’s General System Theory (GST) then comes into picture. Bertalanffy’s General System Theory (GST) is noted by Bertalanffy (1968.,p. 32) to be a theory and not to be a system of any special kind.He noised that GST is a theory of universal principles that applies to all systems in general. The aim of GST is to provide a conceptual framework on which to hang the flesh and the blood of a given discipline and subject matter in a coherent and yet orderly corpus of knowledge as noted by Boulding (1991,p. 248).
The general systems theory effectively acknowledges the fact that specialized knowledge is as important as an integrative framework and general knowledge.
Social Entropy Theory (SET)
In regard to sociological thermodynamics, the concept of social entropy theory was originated by Kenneth Bailey, an American sociologist. The theory rests on an assumption that the study of our society as a system is of utmost importance. The Social Entropy Theory (SET) model is used in studying human actors as they actively interact within the physical space and across the societal boundaries. Social Entropy Theory (SET) is used in the analysis of how societal system employs interaction at various levels of variables in accomplishing its goals and satisfies its various needs. The model is very integrating and integrative since it uses various techniques like Q-analysis to analyze objects, R-analysis to analyze among variables, diachronic analysis, synchronic analysis, mutable and immutable as well as global analysis at three separate levels (using a three level model).The levels includes empirical level, conceptual level as well as operational level analysis.
All these are used together in showing how our society maintains an appropriate level of entropy. This is how they prevent any unprecedented increases in the level of entropy to levels that are unviable. The concept of information theory is employed in order to help in modeling the concept of entropy analysis. The concept of information theory is employed in helping to model the concept of entropy analysis. SET is also used in the provision of a quantitative and qualitative integration of the process. Even though the description of SET is obviously inadequate, it is important for use to compare LST and SET (Bailey,1990).
Living systems are noted to comprise of open and self-organizing things that effectively interacts with their own environments. The living systems are effectively maintained by the flows of energy, information and matter. Some scientists had in the past suggested in the last few decades that there is need to use the general living systems theory in explaining the nature of life (Woodruff & Baross,2007).Such a general theory, with its genesis and foundation in biological and ecological sciences effectively attempts to clearly map the general principles of the operation of the living systems. Other than attempting to examine a phenomena by breaking it down into components, the general living systems theory attempts to explore the phenomena using dynamic patterns of the various relationships of the various organisms with their larger environment (Brown,2002).
The work of Miller (1978) further explored and expanded the knowledge on the concept of living systems theory. In his work, he constructed a special general theory of living systems by effectively focusing on the characteristics of concrete systems (comprised of a series of nonrandom accumulation of energy and matter in a physical space-time system which is organized into a series of interrelated and interacting subsystems).
Miller used the general systems theory on a broader scale in describing all aspects of the living systems (Seppanen, 1998).Living Systems Theory (LST) is noted to be the best theory in the provision of a robust and yet clear explanation of the living systems’ process-structure as opposed to the use of the earlier theories of action-reaction and sense-response approaches (Miller, 1978).
The work of Bailey (1990) adopts an approach which is more traditional science in order to connect the conceptual systems with the information systems. He noted that LST is very difficult to successfully quantify due to the fact that the basic units are strictly objects such as organs. Bailey noted that Miller would have resorted to focusing instead on the variables and attributes of such objects (Miller,2006,p.296).
The works of Miller (1989;1987) further incorporated the concept of money as a rather special kind of information flow with the identification of the specific exchange value attribute that is present at the societal level. The work of Simms (1971) is based on a since of living systems comprising of biological and social elements. This is done on the basis of the opinion that the capacity of a given system to direct energy is a function of its structure and organization. This capacity can effectively be measured and even calculated. In a nutshell, the work of Miller represents a purposeful construction of a scientific theory that has a connection to the life’s material processes.
A comparison of the theories
A review of literature indicates that there are a number of similarities and differences between LST and SET. In this section, lay bare these similarities and differences.
Both SET and LST are obviously very detailed approaches to the analysis and study of our society. Both of them also shares quite a number of common goal.Both concepts are relatively new and they both employ the modern system concepts. They both have an emphasis on an in-depth study of entropy and on the concept of information and matter-energy processes.LST and SET both recognize and clearly analyze the various hierarchical system levels such as individual, organization and society levels of the system.LST and SET both makes a distinction between abstracted and concrete systems. They however begin with the analysis of the latte (Bailey,1989,1993,1994).
Both SET and LST have very divergent features. They include the following;
LST is noted to be more biological because it begins with the analysis of the 7 levels within the human and animal cell as noted in Miller (1978,p.273) and the organ system. SET on the other hand begins the individual. The LST analysis is noted to study twenty subsystems for all the 8 levels (comprising of the cell, the organ, the organism, group system, organization system, the community, the society, as well as the supranational system) while the SET analysis is basically a sociological theory that considers the society as the basic unit of its analysis. It however uses system concepts.
LST is noted to be a general systems theory that encompasses all elements of the living systems with a generalization of the subsystems. On the contrary, the SET is basically a sociological theory that considers the society as the analysis’ basic unit but with the employment of system concepts.
LST focuses mainly in the twenty subsystems (comprising of the cell, the organ, the organism, group system, organization system, the community, the society, as well as the supranational system) when SET has a primary focus on the analysis of the society with due consideration the individual, group, as well as organization subsystems.LST has a primary focus on the concrete systems with a de-emphasis on the abstracted systems. SET on the other hand commences with the analysis of the concrete systems with a careful analysis of the manner in which the abstracted variable systems develop. SET also performs a careful analysis of the link existing between the concrete and the abstracted systems.
An integration of Bertalanffy’s system theory with those of Bailey, Miller and Weick is indeed useful in gaining a greater appreciation of social systems and the environments in which they interact and exist and a greater appreciation of modern social systems structure. This is because all the works seems to revolve around the concept of General systems theory which was initially proposed by Bertalanffy. Every organization must therefore be aware of the social dynamics in order for them to be successful.This can only be done by understanding the integration of Bertalanffy’s system theory with those of Bailey, Miller and Weick in an effort aimed at gaining a greater appreciation of social systems and the environments in which they interac
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