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The Handbook of Political, Social, and Economic Transformation$
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Wolfgang Merkel, Raj Kollmorgen, and Hans-Jürgen Wagener

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198829911

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198829911.001.0001

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(p.17) Chapter 2 System
The Handbook of Political, Social, and Economic Transformation
Wolfgang Merkel, Raj Kollmorgen, Hans-Jürgen Wagener
Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the system concept, which refers to the totality of structures (institutions) and rules (procedures) that place political and social actors (parties, associations, organizations, individuals) in rule-guided interactions with one another in order to fulfil system-preserving functions and reproduce them constantly in a circuit-like manner. Complexity is the raison d’être of system construction. If one were to try to describe society as a whole, one could not get around the sheer multiplicity of constitutive elements and their possible relationships. System-theoretical approaches to social change, e.g., by Talcott Parsons and Niklas Luhmann, shed light on the interrelations between the functional requirements of socio-economic systems and the formation of social and political structures that meet these requirements. The example of the economic system illustrates that transformation as a consciously designed process of system change is possible only within narrow bounds. The recursive structure of relationships within the system and the linkages with the environment generally prevent a sensible intervention from the outside or a cybernetic control from the inside over highly complex processes.

Keywords:   complexity, contingency, mechanisms of adaptation, system change, functional differentiation, input–output model, autopoiesis, stability, legitimation, efficiency

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