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In
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
, social system is the patterned network of relationships constituting a coherent whole that exist between individuals, groups, and institutions. It is the formal
structure A structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A ...
of role and status that can form in a small, stable group. An individual may belong to multiple social systems at once; examples of social systems include
nuclear family A nuclear family, elementary family or conjugal family is a family In , family (from la, familia) is a of people related either by (by recognized birth) or (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain the ...
units,
communities A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, wor ...

communities
,
cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings grouped to ...

cities
,
nation A nation is a community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense ...

nation
s,
college campus Map of the main campus of Université Laval in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. A campus is traditionally the land on which a college or university and related institutional buildings are situated. Usually a college campus includes library, librarie ...

college campus
es,
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal ...

corporation
s, and industries. The organization and definition of groups within a social system depend on various shared properties such as location, socioeconomic status, race, religion, societal function, or other distinguishable features.


Notable theorists

The study of social systems is integral to the fields of sociology and public policy. Social systems have been studied for as long as sociology has existed.


Talcott Parsons

Talcott Parsons Talcott Parsons (13 December 1902 – 8 May 1979) was an American sociologist of the classical tradition The Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, ...

Talcott Parsons
was the first to formulate a systematic theory of social systems, which he did as a part of his
AGIL paradigm The AGIL paradigm is a sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or soc ...
. He defined a social system as only a segment (or a "subsystem") of what he called action theory. Parsons organized social systems in terms of action units, where one action executed by an individual is one unit. He defines a social system as a network of interactions between actors. According to Parsons, social systems rely on a system of language, and
culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals i ...

culture
must exist in a society in order for it to qualify as a social system. Parsons' work laid the foundations for the rest of the study of social systems theory and ignited the debate over what framework social systems should be built around, such as actions, communication, or other relationships.


Niklas Luhmann

Niklas Luhmann Niklas Luhmann (; ; December 8, 1927 – November 6, 1998) was a German sociologist, philosopher of social science, and a prominent thinker in systems theory, who is considered one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century. Biogr ...
was a prominent sociologist and social systems theorist who laid the foundations of modern social system thought. He based his definition of a "social system" on the mass network of communication between people and defined society itself as an "autopoietic" system, meaning a self-referential and self-reliant system that is distinct from its environment. Luhmann considered social systems as belonging to three categories: societal systems, organizations, and interaction systems. Luhmann considered societal systems, such as religion, law, art, education, science, etc., to be closed systems consisting of different fields of interaction. Organizations were defined as a network of decisions which reproduce themselves; his definition is difficult to apply in terms of finding a real-world example. Finally, interaction systems are systems that reproduce themselves on the basis of communication rather than decision making.


Jay Wright Forrester

Jay Wright Forrester Jay Wright Forrester (July 14, 1918 – November 16, 2016) was a pioneering American computer engineer and systems scientist. He is credited with being one of the inventors of magnetic core memory, the predominant form of random access, random-acc ...
founded the field of
system dynamics System dynamics (SD) is an approach to understanding the nonlinear In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space ...

system dynamics
, which deals with the simulation of interactions in dynamic systems. In his work on social systems, he discusses the possibilities of social system dynamics, or modeling social systems using computers with the aim of testing the possible effects of passing new public policies or laws. In his paper he recognized the difficulty of producing a reliable computer model system, but argued that an imperfect model was better than none and simply implementing new policy. Forrester argued that unsuccessful public policies aim to treat the symptoms rather than the causes of social issues and that they also generally focus on efforts rather than on results. This occurs because there is either an incomplete understanding or a misunderstanding of the causes of an issue on the part of the policymakers, which often leads to ineffective or detrimental policies which aggravate the issues they were implemented to correct or cause other issues to arise. Another problem Forrester notes is that some policies which may work in the long run may aggravate an issue in the short run. A successful policy according to Forrester must target the correct leverage points, in this case the aspect of the social problem which, if modified, will produce a sizeable enough effect to correct the problem.


Modeling

One significant problem with studying social systems is the difficulty of forming and testing theories; social systems are not easily manipulated or controlled and large-scale systems cannot be reproduced in a lab setting. However, the rapid increase in the availability of digital
data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used ...

data
over the last decade gives scientists studying the behaviors of social systems very detailed and much more holistic pictures of how social systems respond to various events and how networked social systems behave. Additionally, the development and popularity of social media platforms such as
Facebook Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service owned by Meta Platforms. Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, an ...

Facebook
and
Twitter Twitter is an American microblogging Microblogging is an online Broadcasting, broadcast medium that exists as a specific form of blogging. A micro-blog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actu ...

Twitter
offer new ways to study the evolution of social systems and social networking behaviors with
social graph 250px, A drawing of a graph in which each person is represented by a dot called a node and the friendship relationship is represented by a line called an edge The social graph is a graph that represents social relations between entities. In ...

social graph
s. Even though the behaviors of these systems may be surprising or not yet well understood, the digital age offers a new frontier for the study of social systems. Notable past models are the WORLD2 and
WORLD3 The World3 model In general, a model is an informative representation of an object, person or system. The term originally denoted the plans of a building in late 16th-century English, and derived via French and Italian ultimately from Latin ''mod ...
models: these both aimed to outline the world's distribution of resources. WORLD3 was based on the
Club of Rome The Club of Rome was founded in 1968 at Accademia dei Lincei The Accademia dei Lincei (; literally the "Academy An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary o ...
's ''
Limits to Growth ''The Limits to Growth'' (''LTG'') is a 1972 report on the exponential economic An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods ...
.''


See also


References


External links

* {{Authority control
Sociological terminology This category relates to sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or s ...