Systems, Rationality and Equity in a Post-Modern World

  • Gilbert Mansell


Systems practice involves intervention in society intended to bring about improvement. This is true of both ‘hard’ and’ soft’traditions in the systems movement. ‘Hard’ systems engineering extended the ambitions of engineers from the design of effective and efficient machines to the the design of effective and efficient systems of ‘Men, Money Machines and Material’ (Jenkins, 1969). The need for designers to choose an appropriate boundary progressively gave rise to the incorporation of human beings in system designs, and the insight that systems occur as part of a hierarchy of systems again caused the characteristics of human beings to be considered at levels higher than the operational. In the tradition of ‘hard’ Systems Engineering, therefore, social planning and intervention is necessitated by the drive for comprehensiveness inherent in the systems approach. The paper by Jenkins (1969), is full of the optimism of the times for the benefits that will ensure from the application of a systems approach. Jenkins explicitly distinguishes Systems Engineering from engineering by claiming that the former can be applied not only to hardware systems but “...can also be applied, for example, to parts of firms, or whole firms, or to local government” (Jenkins, 1969). The benefits that Jenkins claims will ensue include clarification of objectives, the replacement of guesswork by model-building and optimisation, and the tackling of problems in their correct order of importance. These are similar claims to those made by the operational research movement that similarly flourished in the 1960s.


System Thinking Soft System Methodology Operational Research Society System Practice Instrumental Reason 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gilbert Mansell
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Computing and MathematicsUniversity of HuddersfieldHuddersfieldUK

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