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Social Systems Theory. Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Characteristics. It is comprehensive It offers greater potential for description and integration of disparate theories into a single framework that any other framework. It provides suggestive leads

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Social systems theory l.jpg

Social Systems Theory

Human Behavior and the Social Environment


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Characteristics

  • It is comprehensive

    • It offers greater potential for description and integration of disparate theories into a single framework that any other framework.

  • It provides suggestive leads

    • For all sectors of human behavior

  • It has the potential to provide a common language.

  • Parsimony

    • It allows the reduction of theories to a framework that can be mastered.


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Providing Meaning to Theory

  • General systems theory, which includes the narrower field of social systems, is a cross-disciplinary body of scientific thought that developed during the twentieth century.

  • Social systems perspective: a philosophical viewpoint on the relationship of person with their social environment.

  • Social systems model: meaning that it is at the same time a hypothesis to be tested, primarily through its application to professional practice.



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Systems/Systemic Thinking the study of human communication.

  • System:

    • A set of things or parts forming a whole.

    • A complex unity formed of many often diverse parts subject to a common plan or serving a common purpose.

  • Systemic Thinking:

    • Using the mind to recognize pattern, conceive unity, and form some coherent wholeness – to seek to complete the picture.


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  • Systems consists of elements that are capable of being understood.

  • Systemic thinking includes those ways of thinking that seek to understand coherence and connectedness of all life.

  • Thought is patterned and imposed on the world as experienced by the perceiver.

  • Comprehension of the part/whole nature of life is the central tenet of systemic thinking.


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Polar Positions who interact and mutually influence each other’s behavior.

  • Systems exist at all levels:

    • Persons

    • Families

    • Organizations

    • Communities

    • Societies

    • Cultures

  • What is a basic unit of a social system?


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  • Macro vs. Micro who interact and mutually influence each other’s behavior.

  • Whole vs. Part

  • Holistic Viewpoint:

    • The whole determines the actions of its parts.

    • People are determined by society.

  • Atomistic Viewpoint:

    • The whole is the sum of its parts

    • Persons determine the society.


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  • This duality has emerged within our profession as the historical distinction between “casework” and “community organization”, or as “individual change” vs. “social change”.

  • This duality is inherent in other social/behavioral disciplines, most explicitly in the paradigm of “nature vs. nurture”.

  • Both polar positions are relevant and must be considered when examining human affairs.


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Holon historical distinction between “casework” and “community organization”, or as “individual change” vs. “social change”.

  • Each social entity whether large or small, complex or simple, is a holon.

  • This term is borrowed from Greek language to express the idea that each entity is simultaneously a part and a whole.

  • A social unit is made up of parts to which it is the whole (suprasystem) and at the same time is part of some larger whole (component).

  • What is central is that any system is by definition both part and whole.


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  • Focal system: historical distinction between “casework” and “community organization”, or as “individual change” vs. “social change”.

    • The system chosen to receive primary attention.

    • Identifies the perspective from which the observer views, and analyzes the system and its environment

  • The idea of holon then requires the observer to attend to both the components of that focal system and the suprasystem (significant environment) to fully understand it.


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  • Social System Theory is “holonistic” requiring: historical distinction between “casework” and “community organization”, or as “individual change” vs. “social change”.

    • Specification of the focal system

    • Specification of the units or components that constitute that holon

    • Specification of the significant environmental systems

    • Specification of one’s own position relative to the focal system.


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Energy/Information historical distinction between “casework” and “community organization”, or as “individual change” vs. “social change”.

  • The basic “stuff” of a system is energy.

  • Energy can be in the form of information and resources.

  • System action can be understood as the movement of energy/information:

    • Within a system

    • Between as system and its environment

  • Information is ingested as energy to the same extent that food fulfills biological needs.


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  • Energy and information are not identical. of energy/information” between persons or groups of persons.

  • Energy must be structured in order to be useful.

  • Information gives form to the energy.

  • Energy derives from a complex of sources including the physical capacities of its members; social resources such as loyalties, shared sentiments, and common values; and resources from its environment.


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  • Energy sources for personality systems: of energy/information” between persons or groups of persons.

    • Food

    • The physical condition of the body

    • Intellectual and emotional capabilities

    • Emotional support from friends, family or colleagues

    • Cultural and religious sanctions for one’s beliefs and activities

    • Recognition of one’s status by society and one’s colleagues in an organization

    • One’s sense of self-worth and integrity.


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Entropy and Synergy of energy/information” between persons or groups of persons.

  • The tendency of an unattended system to move toward an unorganized state that is characterized by decreased interactions among its components.

  • Entropy is a measure of the quantity of energy not available for use.

  • Examples:

    • He’s not performing up to his potential

    • What a waste of talent


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The Four Basic Energy Functions system derived from heightened interaction among its components.

  • Systems require energy in order to exist.

  • There are four basic energy functions that are essential to carry out a system’s purposes:

    • Securing energy from the environment

    • Securing energy internally

    • Goal attainment outside the system

    • Goal attainment within the system


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  • External Internal system derived from heightened interaction among its components.

  • (environmental) (components)

SE

SI

GI

GE


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  • The four functions (SI, SE, GI, GE) are not separate; a system performs all of these functions at the same time.

  • In any exchanges between whole and parts, all elements receive some energy and have some goals met.

  • The reciprocal nature of the transactions and exchanges should be kept in mind.


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Organization neglected, to the detriment of the total system.

  • Even if energy is available in and to a system, if there is a total absence of organization then there is a total absence of system.

  • Absence of organization equals entropy.

  • Organization refers to the grouping and arranging of parts to form a whole in order to put a system into “working order.”

  • System organization secures, expends, and conserves energy to maintain the system and further its purposes.


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  • Disorganization of a system – whether person, family, or neighborhood – does not mean totally unorganized; it means not sufficiently organized.

  • Families with problems are generally disorganized families, and the reasons for this disorganization can emanate from internal sources and/or external forces:


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  • The goals of one or more members are in opposition to system goals.

  • The elements of organization are disrupted or unclear.

  • Energies from within the system are not available or not sufficient for the demands on the system.

  • The family is not adequately organized to obtain additional energy from outside its own system.

  • The environment exercises a disorganizing influence on the family system (oppression).

  • Energy is denied or not available from the suprasystem (unemployment; or having welfare benefits cut off.).


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Causation, Feedback Loops, and Chaos Theory goals.

  • It is not useful to understand human behavior through searching for linear, one-directional cause-effect relationships.

  • It serves little purpose to ask “why” persons do what they do.

  • A more useful inquiry is “how” or in what way something happened.

  • “A interacts with B to produce AB, which changes both A and B, and results in C, which is partly A, B, and AB.”


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  • The process in which a system receives internal or environmental responses to its behavior and, in turn, reacts to these received responses by accommodating and assimilating the energy/information received, by altering the system’s structure, and then engaging in altered exchanges of energy/information.


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  • The fundamental concept in chaos theory is order vs. disorder.

  • Energy that is completely flat, unorganized, and undifferentiated is in a state of disorder.

  • Systems and subsystems which are maintained only by great effort and only by intense energy exchange internally and with their environment is an example of order.