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3 Systems Theory - Contemporary Sociological Theory Systems...

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Contemporary Sociological Theory Systems Theory Sociology and Modern Systems Theory Despite the checkered past of systems theory in sociology, some scholars have pointed to its advantages. Walter Buckley (1921-) , for example, argued that systems theory provides a way to unify all the behavioral and social sciences; it is a multi-leveled approach; it is interested in many varied relationships in the social world; it emphasizes processes of information and communication; it is integrative; and it views the world in dynamic terms. Buckley maintained that three different kinds of systems exist: mechanical, organic, and sociocultural. These three kinds of systems differ qualitatively as well as quantitatively - i.e., in terms of the way they work as well as their degree of complexity and instability. Systems may also be described in terms of the degree to which they are open or closed. Open systems (e.g., sociocultural systems) tend to respond to a greater range of fluctuations in the environment than closed systems do. Closed systems generally are entropic (i.e., they tend to break down), while open systems tend to be negentropic (i.e., they tend to elaborate structures). Sociocultural systems are often purposive and goal-seeking due to their capacity to receive feedback from their environments. Feedback - which is key to the cybernetic approach to systems analysis - allows analysts to take into account change, growth, friction, and evolution in their studies of social systems. Moreover, systems theorists emphasize the importance of internal
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