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.
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