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Social Systems Theory

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Handbook of Systems Sciences


The term “social systems theory” can be interpreted in many ways. However, this chapter mainly understands this term from the tradition of sociology. In some branches of sociology, the term “social system” is strictly defined, and at the same time, social systems theory is regarded as a significant part of general systems theory. According to Niklas Luhmann, the concept of social systems should be considered as an extension of the property of systems in general; furthermore, the idea of “social system” is not a mere analogy of biological system or machine. This chapter follows this attitude and assumes that social system is very suitable for the system concept because the meaning of “the social” is remarkably close to the definition of systems (unitas multiplex; the unity of multiples). Based on this idea, this chapter explores how general systems theory can affect the main concepts of sociology. The primary focus is on how systems thinking can be a tool for sociological thinking. In this context, this chapter pays attention to the common point of systems thinking and sociological thinking, that is: to see things otherwise. In conclusion, social systems theory has the potential as an analytical tool of sociology, but this mission has not yet fully accomplished.

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Correspondence to Saburo Akahori .

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Akahori, S. (2021). Social Systems Theory. In: Metcalf, G.S., Kijima, K., Deguchi, H. (eds) Handbook of Systems Sciences. Springer, Singapore.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-981-13-0370-8

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