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In sociology, social system is the patterned network of relationships constituting a coherent whole that exist between individuals, groups, and institutions.[1] It is the formal structure of role and status that can form in a small, stable group.[1] An individual may belong to multiple social systems at once;[2] examples of social systems include nuclear family units, communities , cities, nations, college campuses , corporations, 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.[3]

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 was the first to formulate a systematic theory of social systems, which he did as a part of his AGIL paradigm. He defined a social system as only a segment (or a "subsystem") of what he called action theory.[4] 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.[4] According to Parsons, social systems rely on a system of language, and culture must exist in a society in order for it to qualify as a social system.[4] 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 was a prominent sociologist and social systems theorist who laid the foundations of modern social system thought.[5] 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.[6] Luhmann considered social systems as belonging to three categories: societal systems, organizations, and interaction systems.[7] Luhmann considered societal systems, such as religion, law, art, education, science, etc., to be closed systems consisting of different fields of interaction.[8] 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.[8] Finally, interaction systems are systems that reproduce themselves on the basis of communication rather than decision making.[8]

Jay Wright Forrester

Jay Wright Forrester founded the field of system dynamicsThe 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 was the first to formulate a systematic theory of social systems, which he did as a part of his AGIL paradigm. He defined a social system as only a segment (or a "subsystem") of what he called action theory.[4] 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.[4] According to Parsons, social systems rely on a system of language, and culture must exist in a society in order for it to qualify as a social system.[4] 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 was a prominent sociologist and social systems theorist who laid the foundations of modern social system thought.[5] 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.[6] Luhmann considered social systems as belonging to three categories: societal systems, organizations, and interaction systems.[7] Luhmann considered societal systems, such as religion, law, art, education, science, etc., to be closed systems consisting of different fields of interaction.[8] 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.[8] Finally, interaction systems are systems that reproduce themselves on the basis of communication rather than decision making.[8]

Jay Wright Forrester