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Systems Theory

  Systems theory is the belief that the general concept of a ‘system’ can be applied to naturally occurring systems of many types: social, biological and mechanical.

Within sociology, systems theory is traditionally associated with the work of the US sociologist Talcott Parsons, which was fashionable in the 1950s and 1960s. Parsons produced a model of the ‘social system’ and of ‘action systems’ which comprised the nucleus of the branch of sociology called structural-functionalism. A further objective for Parsons was to integrate the study of different social sciences under an overarching general systems theory. In Parson\'s model, every social system has four subsystems—adaption, goal-attainment, integration and pattern maintenance—which correspond to four basic needs essential to the social system\'s survival. In adapting to the external and internal environment social systems have to solve these four problems in order to ensure its continuance.

Parsons\' efforts have been subject to much criticism, but systems theory remains an important influence within social science today. Any social theory that treats social relations, groups or societies as a set of interrelated parts which function to maintain some boundary or unity of parts is based implicitly or explicitly on the concept of a social system. DA

See also evolutionism; functionalism; holism; society; structuralism; structure; system; theories of modernity; world system.Further reading Alexander, Theoretical Logic in Sociology vol. 1; W. Buckley, Sociology and Modern Systems Theory; , W.L. Wallace, Sociological Theory: An Introduction.



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