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Analyze Bertalanffys General Systems Theory Sociology Essay

Analyze Bertalanffys General Systems Theory Sociology Essay

In this paper, we analyze Bertalanffys General Systems Theory by comparing and contrasting the analysis of the concepts of Bertalanffys General Systems Theory in order to reflect a broad perspective on modern social systems and social networking. 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 appreciation of social systems and the environments in which they interact and exist and a greater appreciation of modern social systems structure.


In the 21st century, relationship between system theory and the study of someone’s opinion is very important to our understanding of the changing nature of human cognitive. The theoretical frameworks which sometimes make our perceptions and their interpretations, and condition of the depth of our awareness are shifting very fast as the nature of human relations transforms. . In this paper, we analyze Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory by comparing and contrasting the analysis of the concepts of Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory in order to reflect a broad perspective on modern social systems and social networking. 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 appreciation of social systems and the environments in which they interact and exist and a greater appreciation of modern social systems structure.

However, the general system theory was formally introduced by Ludwig von Bertalanffy in the 1920s. Since then many writers have added a number of literature on system theory with every writings on the evolution of system theory taking a different direction. The relationship between Eastern religious and philosophical thought and systems theory are discovered in some other books such as Joanna Macy’s Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General System theory.

General System Theory (GST) started out as result of a number of disciplines such as biology, mathematics, social science and philosophy. As many disciplines emerged the goal and role of general system theory started to change to. Even though von Bertalanffy started to think about GST in the 1930s, he didn’t articulate the vision until 1954 at the AAAS conference. According to Ray (2000) the vision of von Bertalanffy was to obtain biologically minded scientists to consider their work from a holistic perspective. His thought was to include the goal of constructing a mechanism which can be used to reduce duplication of theoretical effort in the sciences. The proposal was to have GST serve as unifying for philosophers to become committed to building a serious theory (Ray, 2000).

Ray (2000) noted general system theory ignited out researchers’ abilities, who were conducting research on homologies between works in social sciences, physical and biological. General System Theory in much deeper contest is the collection of the ideas, principles, problems, methods and tools techniques which are links directly with systems. However, in this case, Ray (2000) outlined that system is a pact of various component which are interrelated form a whole concept. This system started as a result of Newtonian method of disintegrating object into tinny particles then use individual particles parts to understand the behavior of that particular particle while ignoring their interactions. Another related definition was provided by Miller (2001) as a group of related definitions, propositions and assumptions which work with reality as an integrated hierarchy of organizations of matter and energy.

Mathematically, general system theory is said to be based on a certain set of theory. Moreover, tools which are used to define the system are formal system components and their relationship. Its basis ideas are introduced systematically, which make its behavior and properties available for investigation in a precise manner. General Systems Theory is particularly applicable to systems with goal seeking behavior, biological and social systems are the primary domains of such goal seeking behavior. Although precise, the model of the system often has to be simplified to high level of abstraction to make the computations tractable (Ray, 2000 pg, 25).

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But, Laszlo & Krippnern (1998) stated general system theory is a holistic, procedure oriented model of the universe in which all parts are mutually affecting. It stands much different with traditional linear, mechanistic model in which the universe is reduced to an assemblage of unrelated entities operating causally where there is only one discreet cause for every event. According to systems theory, everything is fundamentally interrelated and input into one aspect of a complex system will affect other aspects of that system which will in turn affect other aspects of the system and so on and so forth. In addition, complex living systems are composed of smaller systems and are in turn imbedded within larger systems the idea of nested hierarchy.

The undulate effect inherent in system responses also impacts the systems of which the original system is an integral part. Systems are thus circuits of information flow. The circuitry of a system involves the reception of input from the environment, the perception of that input in reference to existing codes, and finally, the system’s response.

An annotated bibliography

Strunk, G., Schiffinger, M., Mayrhofer, W. (2004). Lost in transition? Complexity in organizational behavior – the contributions of systems theories. Management Revue, 15(4), 481-509.

In this paper, the author stated the importance of concepts and ways of dealing with system theories in the organizational behavior (OB). The paper discusses the diagnosing development area which happens in organization behavior, mostly the analysis of systems and their rate of operationalization and formalization of core building and assumptions. The paper also uses a number of hypotheses in career research to demonstrate the opportunities and barrier of concepts and methods used in systems theories.

Laszlo, A., Krippner, S. (1998).Systems Theories. Their Origins, Foundations, and Development

J.S. Jordan (Ed.), Systems Theories and A Priori Aspects of Perception. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 1998. Ch. 3, pp. 47-74.

In this paper, the writer talked about the broader conception of system and described it as a complex interacting component which operates with the relationships to permit the recognition of the boundary maintaining entity or process. The further discusses the history of systems theories and the contribution they make from seminal thinkers like North Whitehead, Ludwing von Bertalanffy, Anatol Rapoport and Paul Weiss. The paper also traces the background of systems theories, their permutations and their developments. In the paper, the evolution of the system theory is also highlighted as one of the most recent advances in the system discovery.

Bailey, K. D. (2004). Beyond System Internals: Expanding the Scope of Living Systems Theory. Los Angeles: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

In this book, the author primarily discusses the effect of social system theory on the internal relations system. The author noted that, the initially reasons of discussing internal relations system as away of analyzing the inner workings of a social systems in detail for it to be understood. In the book, it is outlined by Luhmann, it is an opportunity to go above internals and start to analyze system external theory of living system theory (LST). However, the book also explains Miller’s Living System Theory that the initial plan was not on the system internals, but to look on vertical relations as well. The book discusses various steps used to analyze internal links within a certain social system and external links existing between two other systems.

Bailey, K. D. (2006). Living systems theory and social entropy theory. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 23, 291-300.

In the book, the author outlined that even though Living System Theory is highly recognized for what it has done to scholarship in general and system theory in particular, its major contribution has never been presented. The author stated that the purpose of the book is to discuss the Living System Theory and connect it with Social Entropy Theory (SET). The book also highlighted the first twenty major contributions of LST. In the paper, the writer stated some of the Miller’s argument on the LST. The writer stated in the book, Miller’s contributions were on the actions of concrete segments used in the fulfillment of critical subsystems procedures which are required at each level of the system. The book does not put a lot of emphasis on the important systems variable like technology and population. The second section of the paper discuses Social Entropy Theory (SET) and also indicates the way it complements and extends LST.

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Bertalanffy, L. (1951). General system theory – A new approach to unity of science. (Symposium), Human Biology, 23, 303-361. Dec 1951.

In this symposium, the writer talked about some of the new approach to united science. It looks general system theory on various subjects such as mathematics, human biology and engineering as a form management.

Bertalanffy, L. (1972). General system theory: Foundations, development, applications. London: Allen Lane.

The book highlighted some of the common laws which the author attempted to formulate that apply to every virtual scientific field. In the book the writer also noted some of the conceptual approach in the general system theory which the writer tried to discover and their profound impact on such widely diverse disciplines like economics, biology, psychology and demography.

Bertalanffy, L. (2008). Outline of General System Theory. Reprint found in Juarrero, A. and Rubino, C.A., editors, Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 10(2), 103-128.

In the paper, the author published various types of essays which entitled emergence, complexity and self organization. The writer through the paper includes some of the positive contributions of the discussion of emergence, self organization and complexity. The paper seriously acknowledges the functions that interaction of key parts plays in the production of complexity. The paper also provides the ontological status to the wholeness of characteristics of systems. The paper discusses the some of the traditional systems which have been studied such as chemistry, physics, and organism and living systems as open systems.

Miller, J.G. (1990). Introduction: the nature of living systems. Behavioral Science. (35) 3, 157-163.

In this paper, the author highlighted the concern of Living System Theory (LST) and stated eight levels of living systems. The paper discusses the composition of these systems in which 20 critical subsystems that carry out the process of life are analyzed. As a result of a continuous biosocial evolution involving progressive fray-out of components, the more recently developed levels in this hierarchy have become very complex. A brief summary of LST is presented in this article. Following this is a detailed analysis of current knowledge about the timer, which we have recently included in our list of subsystems.

Miller, J.L., & Miller, J.G. (1992). Greater than the sum of its parts: Subsystems which process both matter-energy and information. Behavioral Science, 37, 1—38.

In this book, the author talked on the change of the behavioral theory since 1978 when the published of Miller’s Living System Theory was done. Much of the changes indicated in the book represent progress made particularly in the biological fields. The book further talked about the times when living system theory was developed, it also noted that LST was developed in a number of ways. Among the most significant developments have been the addition of another level, the community, to the seven levels previously included in LST and the addition of another subsystem, the timer, to become the 20th subsystem. The present article is the first of three to be published in this journal which describe relatively briefly and simply the current state of scientific knowledge about the subsystems of living systems. It deals with the two subsystems in LST that process matter-energy and information, the reproducer and the boundary.

Miller, J. G. (2001). Living systems. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.

In this paper, the writer highlighted some of the subsystems in the general systems which are used in the processing of the matter – energy and information. The paper however, explains various methods involved the matter energy process and the boundary. Besides the paper talked about a number of issues which are involved in the boundary of the living system theory.

Weick, K. E. (1976). Educational Organizations as Loosely Coupled Systems. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21, 1-19.

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In the paper, the author talked about the contrast which prevails in images. It further outlined that these elements in organizations are coupled through dense, tight linkages; it is proposed that elements are often tied together frequently and loosely. The paper also categorize that through the use of educational organizations as a case in point, it is argued that the concept of loose coupling incorporates a surprising number of disparate observations about organizations, suggests novel functions, creates stubborn problems for methodologists, and generates intriguing questions for scholars. Sample studies of loose coupling are suggested and research priorities are posed to foster cumulative work with this concept.

Weick, K. E. and Daft, R. L. (1984). Toward a model of organizations as Interpretation systems. The Academy of Management Review, 9, 284-285.

This book stated the processes organizations are using to determine the needed in the market and then explore. The author talked about viewpoints which can be utilized by the organization so that it gear up to supply those needs. However, theoretical standpoint is outlined as an approach to be maximized and model is also presented. It provides a comparative perspective for managers as well as pointing out that the manager should function as an interpreter, rather than doing the operational work of the organization. This is a basis and stimulant for the manager’s thinking, rather than a precise formula. The assisted in writing the paper, since it outlined the model of organizations and how it work with general system theory. This however, allowed me to understand how general system theory relates to the organization management.

Weick, K. E. (1988). Enacted Sensemaking in Crisis Situation. Journal of Management Studies. 25(4), 305—317.

In this paper, the author outlined how sensemaking in crisis can be made so hard simply because action that is so helpful to understand the crisis is often intensifies the crisis. The paper also discusses the dilemma from the point that people enact the environments which restrict them. It is argued that commitment, capacity, and expectations affect sensemaking during crisis and the severity of the crisis itself. It is proposed that the core concepts of enactment may comprise an ideology that reduces the likelihood of crisis.

Weick, K. E. (1993). The collapse of sense making in organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, 628-652.

In this paper, the author stated how teaching of organization theory and operational of the organization research have been dominated with most focus are on decision making and the idea of strategic rationality. However, idea of the model ignores the inherent complexity and ambiguity of organization in the real world concept and their environments. In this paper, the writer states how ways of sensemaking and the organizational structure and behavior. The process is seen as the creation of reality as an ongoing accomplishment that takes form when people make retrospective sense of the situations in which they find themselves.

Weick, K. E., Sutcliffe, K. M., Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking. Organization Science. 16(4), 409-421.

In this book, the authors written how sensemaking can turn situation or event into an understandable explicitly in words and that can serves as a springboard into action. In the paper, the position of film sensemaking fills is stated as important to the organization theory. The seemingly transient nature of sensemaking belies its central role in the determination of human behavior, whether people are acting in formal organizations or elsewhere. Sensemaking is central because it is the primary sites where meanings materialize that informs and constrain identity and action. The purpose of this paper is to take stock of the concept of sensemaking in the organization theory. These key enhancements provide a foundation upon which to build future studies that can strengthen the sensemaking perspective.

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Weick, K. E. (2012). Making Sense of the Organization: Volume 2: The Impermanent Organization. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

In this book, the author expresses his ideas on the forefront of our thinking on leadership, teams, and the management of change. This book engages the puzzle of impermanence in organizing. Through rich examples, evocative language, artful literature citing, and imaginative connecting, Weick re-introduces core ideas and themes around attending, interpreting, acting and learning to unlock new insights about impermanent organizing. The wisdom in this book is timeless and timely. It prods scholars and managers of organizations to complicate their views of organizing in ways that enrich thought and action.

Fahy, M., Feller, J., Finnegan, P., Murphy, C. (2007). Complexity and Context: Emerging Forms of Collaborative Inter-organizational Systems. : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application (JITTA). 8(4), 1-14.

The paper analyses the collaborative development of emergent IOS in three data intensive industry sectors (telecommunications, news media, and financial services). The findings reveal that environmental complexities (the complexity of data consumption patterns and increased interdependence within value webs) require context-sensitive value exchanges operationalised within co-operatively developed commodity-like IT infrastructures. The paper concludes by examining the implications of the study findings for developing IOS to support pooled, sequential, and reciprocal inter-organizational interdependencies.

Parent, E.R, (2000). A living systems perspective as a Metaframework for viewing the dynamics of human experience. Retrieved from

In this paper, the author describes a number of new ways of metaframework for understanding the dynamics of human experience, existing on both group and individual level. The paper further started that the traditional living system theory is built from input through out. This allows information to have easy flow between each person. It explains matter energy is viewed as a micro-system, a subsystem of a much larger person environment system of a person.

However, the paper lays emphasis on the conceptual model as an important information feedback and feedforward process as a way of influencing the pattern how an individual or a group of social cultural lives and interact with others.

System theory

It’s argued that system theory has lived its expectation, which was supposed to hold for social sciences. Looking into detail on the magnitudes of the claims the disappointment is visible. However, in some section it has been hailed as away of unifying the methods of all of sciences. But other people looked at system theory as away of combating the fragmentation and specialization of the sciences (Langlois, 1982). It said, system theory failed to bring different part of issues under one sway of an organized group. In fact, it might be so possible to say that system theory alone has succumbed to the diversity and complexity of modern scientific inquiry (Langlois, 1982)

However, Langlois (1982) defined system theory as the virtual approach which is impossible outside the context of a particular discipline. There are a number of versions of system theories that would be system theorists. System theory is therefore defined by Langlois (1982) as the trasdisciplinary study of the organization abstract phenomena, independent of their substance, spatial, type and their temporal scale of existence. The system carry out investigations on the principles of common all the complex entities and most model of mathematic which can be used to describe them (Langlois, 1982). System theory is said to contain four things. The first is object, its parts, elements or variable within the system. It might be in the form of physical or abstract or both, but mostly depend on the nature of the system. Second, there are attributes such as the qualities or the properties of the system and its object in the system theory. System has also international relationship with its objects. The fourth, stated that system normally exist in an environment.

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According to Langlois (1982) system is a combination of a group of things which affects one another within a certain environment to form a larger pattern that is unique from any of the parts. The fundamental systems-interactive paradigm of organizational analysis features the continual stages of input, throughput (processing), and output, which demonstrate the concept of openness/closeness. A closed system does not interact with its environment. It does not take in information and therefore is likely to atrophy, that is to vanish. An open system receives information, which it uses to interact dynamically with its environment. Openness increases its likelihood to survive and prosper. Several system characteristics are: wholeness and interdependence (the whole is more than the sum of all parts), correlations, perceiving causes, chain of influence, hierarchy, suprasystems and subsystems, self-regulation and control, goal-oriented, interchange with the environment, inputs/outputs, the need for balance/homeostasis, change and adaptability morphogenesis and equifinality, there are various ways to achieve goals. Different types of networks are: line, commune, hierarchy and dictator networks. Communication in this perspective can be seen as an integrated process – not as an isolated event.

Original and foundation of system theory

The system theory begun in the 19th and first half of 21th century, during time the world was perceived to be chaotic. Chaos was used blindly to predict and judge the ultimate reality, with life as an accidental product of any physical processes, and mind as epi phenomenon. However, in the current theory of evolution which discusses the living world appear as product of chance, as a result of different randomly selected natural mills. The development was triggered by the need of more disciplines in areas such cybernetics, information theory, general system theory, theories of games in decisions of making in line with real applications. In mathematics techniques there are various are general assumption that they are unsatisfactory and most of the time contradictory (Laszlo & Krippner, 1998).

Laszlo (1998) noted Von Bertalanffy measured the principles of organization involved at various stages in the demonstration of natural systems. This was accounted in his first statement on the system theory between the years 1925-1926, during the time when similar philosophy of organism was being created by Alfred North Whitehead.

At that particular when such statement was being issued, biologist Paul Weiss also stated the initiative to develop another system approach based on the significant of finding of the conceptual integration that offers the complete knowledge of system theory which is more consistently coherent. More than any other scientists or mathematicians, von Bertalanffy, Whitehead and Weiss became more aggressive and with a lot of potential to develop a general science of organized complexity. 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 presented at a philosophy seminar which took place in the University of Chicago in 1937, but its publication was done after the World War II. It was until 1960s when system thinking started to be recognized as a paradigmatic effort at scientific integration and formulation of theory on transdisciplinary plane (Bailey, 2006).

System theory as a general frame of inquiry

In related to application of a number of studies which has been conducted on the perception of system theory model and its complex to intrapersonal, intergroup, interpersonal and human nature. The result shows that interactions without reducing perceptual phenomena to the level of individual stimuli. General system as frame of inquiry capitalizes on the series of emergence in parallelisms in different disciplinary interpretations of reality and consequently provides a platform for the integrated study of complexity in the human experience.

As a field inquiry concerned with the holistic and integrative exploration of phenomena and events, systems theory pertains to both epistemological and ontological situations. But rather than constitute either an epistemology or ontology, it is more reminiscent of the Greek notion of gnosiology concerned with the holistic and integrative exploration of phenomena and events. There are aspects of the systems approach that are ontological and aspects that are epistemological, and aspects that are at once both and should not be circumscribed to either (Bailey, 2006).

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System and environment

In systems theory the term environment is defined as the set of all objects a change in whose attribute affects the system as well as those objects whose attributes are changed by the behavior of the system (Bertanlaffy, 2008). According to Bertanlaffy (2008), the environment of every social system contains three levels of purpose. These purposes are of the system, parts which make up the systems, and system where the parts are being found, and finally the suprasystem (Bertalanffy, 2008, p. 23).

This brings up the question, how systems thinkers formulate their perception of social reality in terms of what is a system, and what is an environment. Observers in the context of systems science have a clear conception of their mission as an integral part the social system with which they work. In performing a systems analysis of a problem or situation, they start from the problem, not from a preconceived model. Once the manifestation of the problem has been identified and described, they can proceed inward to the sub-systems and outward to the environment (Bailey, 2006).

Living System Theory

According to Miller (2001) Living System Theory is the representative of the older functionalist system approaches, but it might also be seen as an out of fashion branch of systems movement. Contrary, by combining LST by cutting edge technology and emerging systemic research areas the theory may still serve as a powerful and versatile tool in the design and development of human support systems and man machine symbiotic software (Miller, 1978).

The living theory represents early ways of gradual 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 quite challenging. Living System Theory (LST) was established after a thorough and encyclopedic 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 provide 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 LST has already been used in a number of ways.

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 associator, 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.

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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

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