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Aspects of Social Systems. Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Introduction . Energy and the organization of energy are the prime characteristics of social systems. All systems are composed of energy interchange.

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aspects of social systems

Aspects of Social Systems

Human Behavior and the Social Environment

  • Energy and the organization of energy are the prime characteristics of social systems.
  • All systems are composed of energy interchange.
  • Structural and functional aspects of social systems are merely descriptions of this basic interchange.
Those processes of energy interchange that are slower and of longer duration and appear to the observer to be relatively static can be called structural.
  • Those processes that are of relatively fast tempo and short duration can be called behavioral.
  • Those processes that change slowly over time but are not static are termed evolutionary.
  • A structural change in the family may be from extended family to nuclear family over centuries; evolutionary change may be from traditional nuclear family to single-parent families over decades in the twentieth century; and behavioral change includes a particular family’s functioning during its life cycle.
evolution of social systems
Evolution of Social Systems
  • Systems are always both changing and maintaining themselves at any given time.
  • The balance between change and maintenance may shift drastically toward one pole or the other, but if either extreme were reached, the system would cease to exist.
steady state and transition state
Steady State and Transition State
  • Steady state refers to a state in which energies are continually used to maintain the relationship of the parts and keep them from collapsing in decay.
  • Occurs when the whole system is in balance.
  • The system is maintaining a viable relationship with its environment thus ensuring its continual existence.
steady state
Steady State
  • Steady state is characterized by a sufficient degree of organization, complexity, and openness to the environment.
  • The concept of steady state applies to all social systems.
  • The terms equilibrium and homeostasis have meanings similar to steady state but with important differences.
  • Equilibrium – Fixed balance in a relatively closed system characterized by little interchange with the environment and avoidance of disturbance.
  • Homeostasis – Fixed balance in a partially open system, characterized by very limited interchange with the environment and by maintenance of the system’s present structure.
steady state9
Steady State
  • All systems must maintain a shifting balance between status quo (morphostasis) and change (morphogenesis).
  • Also a balance between order and disorder.
  • Another important distinction between steady state, equilibrium, and homeostasis is the significance of stress.
comparison of equilibrium homeostasis and steady state equilibrium homeostasis steady state
Comparison of Equilibrium, Homeostasis, and Steady StateEquilibrium Homeostasis Steady State
transition state
Transition state
  • The condition of a system that is moving from one steady state to another.
  • Transition states may be more frequent that steady states.
  • Like other polarities, it is a ratio of change or maintenance of current structure.
  • One of Prigogine’s (1984) major points is that open systems “at the edge of chaos” react to stress or to new stimuli that require adaptation by transforming themselves to significant degrees.
  • He called this bifurcation, meaning ‘branching’.
  • Theorists no longer regard steady state as the most natural or desirable condition of living systems.
  • Bifurcation is now seen as the ‘normal’ condition of complex systems.
  • Another important aspect is that system’s adaptation is accomplished by altering relationships between components of the system.
structural characteristics
Structural Characteristics
  • Boundary– the limits of the interaction of the components of a system with each other or with the environment. It is usually defined by intensity or frequency of interaction between systems and components.
  • Linkage– energy exchange among and between components and systems. They are reciprocal in nature.
structural characteristics15
Structural Characteristics
  • Open or closed systems – “Open” denotes energy exchange across a system’s boundaries. “Closed” denotes lack of energy exchange across boundaries.
  • Hierarchy – a form of organization that characterizes all viable systems. Hierarchy is a superordinate-subordinate relationship between systems in which any unit is dependent upon its suprasystem for performance of energy functions and must provide direction to its subsystems.
  • Another hierarchy is that of power and control; some parts control others by regulating access to resources or by regulating communication.
  • A third form is that of authority. Some parts serve as sources of sanction and approval.
  • A fourth form is a fixed sequence in which development must occur.
structural characteristics17
Structural Characteristics
  • Autonomy – independence from other components within a system. The components are related to a common suprasystem but are largely or entirely separate from each other.
  • Autonomy is achieved and maintained by feedback cycles that are continually initiated by the system.
  • Autopoiesis – refers to self-development;
    • Connotes both self-origination and on-going self-modification by the system; and
    • Connotes that a major ongoing task of the system is the establishment of its identity, its steady state, its character, and the traits that are characteristic of the system and that are observed to be relatively constant during its evolution.
structural characteristics18
Structural Characteristics
  • Differentiation – selectivity of function or activity among components of a system.
    • “Division of Labor” is one example.
  • A function or activity is performed by one, or some, components and not others.
  • This differs from specialization in that the component may perform other functions or activities in addition to the assigned, differentiated one.
structural characteristics19
Structural Characteristics
  • Specialization – performance of a function or activity to the exclusion of other functions or activities by a component or part of a system. A system may differentiate its components by allocating functions or activities among them; some perform certain functions, whereas others do not perform the same functions. If the part performs only the differentiated function, then it has specialized; if it performs other functions as well, it is differentiated but not specialized. The two are separate.
behavioral aspects of social systems
Behavioral Aspects of Social Systems
  • Behavioral aspects are those interchanges that are of shorter duration and faster tempo.
  • Social Control – the use of energy by a system to assure that its components fulfill assigned functions. Such activity includes socialization and enforcement of norms of behavior. Enforcement may entail persuasion, authority, or force. The purpose of social control is to permit continued functioning of the system through reducing or preventing deviance among the components.
behavioral aspects
Behavioral Aspects
  • Socialization – one form of social control intended to assure the availability of components’ energies to the system. The means to achieve this are primarily through assimilating the culture. Hence education, indoctrination, and enculturation are forms of socialization.
behavioral aspects22
Behavioral Aspects
  • Communication – in a narrow sense, the transportation of information between or within systems; in a broader sense, the transportation of energy, also. In this broader sense, information is considered a special form of energy.
  • Feedback – 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.
behavioral aspects23
Behavioral Aspects
  • Adaptation – action by the system to secure or conserve energy from the environment.
  • Two forms:
    • Assimilation – the acceptance or rejection of incoming information without any change on the part of the system;
    • Accommodation – modification of structure in response to the incoming information.