The Meaning of System: Towards a Complexity Orientation in Systems Thinking

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    This article reviews the generic meaning of ‘system’ and complements more conventional system notions with a system perception based on recent complexity theory. With system as the core concept of systems theory, its actual meaning is not just of theoretical interest but is highly relevant also for systems practice. It is argued that complexity theory and thinking with reference to Luhmann a.o. ought to be recognised and paid attention to by the systems community. Overall, it is found that a complexity orientation may contribute to extend and enrich the explanatory power of current systems theory when used to complex real-world problems. As regards systems practice it is found that selective use and combination of five presented research approaches (functionalist, interpretive, emancipatory, postmodern and complexity) which function as different but complementing ‘epistemic lenses’ in a process described as constructive circularity, may strengthen the exploration and learning efforts in systems-based intervention.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Systems and Society
    Issue number1
    Number of pages14
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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