To understand our world and how it works, we need to understand two fundamental, axiomatic truths. We need to realize that our world isn’t naturally constructed like nature is, but artificially along the lines of fallible, man-made designs known in sociology as “Social Constructionism.”
We also need to understand that these social constructions are found in heterotopian systems that we have designed, in a sense, created the world we currently occupy.
So let’s have a look at these systems and how they are designed. What exactly is Systems Theory, what does it do, how does it work and how does it affect us?
Systems theory is the interdisciplinary study of systems- It is a cohesive group of interrelated and interdependent parts- that’s either natural or human-made! Each “system” is bound by space and time, influenced by its environment, defined by its structure, purpose, and expressed through its functioning. A system may be more than the sum of its parts if it “expresses” synergy or emergent behaviour.
Changing one part of a system may affect other parts of the whole system. It may be possible to predict these changes in “patterns of behaviour;” For systems that learn and adapt, the growth and the degree of adaptation depend on how well the system is engaged with its environment! Some systems support other systems, maintaining the other to prevent failure.
The goals of systems theory are to model a system’s dynamics, constraints, conditions and to elucidate principles, such as, (purpose, measure, methods, tools), that can be discerned, and applied to other systems at every level of nesting, and in a wide range of fields for achieving optimized equifinality.
General systems theory is developing broadly applicable concepts and principles, as opposed to concepts and principles, specific to one domain of knowledge!
It distinguishes dynamic or active systems from static or passive systems- Active systems are activity structures or components that interact in behaviours and processes -Passive systems are structures and components that are being processed.
For example, a program is passive when it is a disc file and active when it runs in memory. The field is related to systems thinking, machine logic, and systems engineering.
Let’s look at its origins:
The term “general systems theory” originates from Bertalanffy’s general systems theory (GST). His ideas were adopted by others, including Kenneth E. Boulding, William Ross Ashby and Anatol Rapoport, working in mathematics, psychology, biology, game theory, and social network analysis. In sociology, systems thinking started earlier, in the 20th century. Stichweh states: “… Since its beginnings, the social sciences were an important part of the establishment of systems theory… the two most influential suggestions were the comprehensive sociological versions of systems theory, which were proposed by Talcott Parsons since the 1950s and by Niklas Luhmann since the 1970s.” References include Parsons’ action theory and Luhmann’s social systems theory.
Elements of systems thinking, can also be seen in the work of James Clerk Maxwell, in particular, control theory. Whilst this is a short description of systems theory, it becomes obvious why it is exceedingly hard to change anything, even a faultline in the global geopolitical, political, social, cultural and economic systems like systemic racism and its deleterious effects it has on black and brown people.