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March 29, 2019

The Nature of 'Soft' Systems Thinking: The Work of Churchman, Ackoff and Checkland

Abstract
In this paper the task of relating work in applied systems research to social theory in general is further developed. This is an important and necessary step in making the social sciences intelligible and useful to systems practitioners. Checkland's conclusion that 'hard' systems methodologies are guided by functionalist theoretical assumptions is accepted. The author's argument is that 'soft' systems thinking can also be located in one sociological paradigm. The recent work of C. W. Churchman, R. L. Ackoff and P. B. Checkland corresponds to that kind of social theory which is to be found in what Burrell and Morgan call the 'interpretive' sociological paradigm. It is also argued that certain of the weaknesses which haunt interpretive social theory can be identified in 'soft' systems thinking. There are important consequences which limit the effectiveness of the 'soft' systems approach for intervening in the real-world. It is hoped that the understanding gained of the exact nature of these consequences will be an immediate return which justifies in the eyes of practical men another foray into the realms of 'abstract' social theory.

Posted by ACASA on March 29, 2019 at 06:24 PM in blog post | Permalink

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