Complex Systems in Social Theory
Systems are theory. They are distinguished by observers, scientific or intellectual; and talked about with other observers. They describe a complexity, consisting of a highly integrated differentiation, established and maintained by a boundary, which selectively separates a unit from and connects it with an environment as seen by an observer. Systems are not only ideological concepts, that is to say concepts that depend on ideas for understanding the order and disorder of the world, but may be supported by industrial, political, legal, educational, medical, institutional, and technical devices to make certain things happen that would otherwise not come to pass–and to prevent other things from happening that would otherwise occur. Systems are accordingly linked to discourses dividing the desiderata for which systems are made from the less desirable happenings in their environment, or, if critical, distinguishing the unpleasant states of the world that systems bring forth from the more positive states preferable to the observer. Systems are normative in relation to the world, even when set up to learn from unexpected events. They may even be considered cultural devices focusing on relations among objects which are never to be taken for granted. They investigate contingencies and contiguities, ordered by relations, organized as complexities, and more often than not considered to be governed by, and to govern, purposeful and goal-seeking behavior.
And social systems are social theory… Read more, working paper available at ssrn.com.