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TYPES OF SYSTEMS

There are four basic types of system depending on whether the parts and the whole can display choice, and therefore, be purposeful. The four kinds of system are shown in Table 1.

TABLE 1: THE FOUR TYPES OF SYSTEMS



Type of System ModelPartsWholeExample
MechanisticNo choiceNo choiceMachines
AnimateNo choiceChoicePersons
SocialChoiceChoiceCorporations
EcologicalChoiceNo ChoiceNature

These types from a hierarchy with ecological systems the highest type. All but mechanistic systems can incorporate as parts other systems of the same or a lower type, but not of a higher type; for example, social systems (e.g., society) may incorporate animate systems (people) and mechanistic systems (machines), but a mechanistic system cannot incorporate either an animate or social system. Ecological systems can incorporate systems of all the other types.

Only animate and social systems can be said to be purposeful.

Systems or their parts are purposeful if, by their choices, they can produce (a) the same outcome in different ways in the same environment and (b) different outcomes in the same and different environments.

Now consider each type of system in a bit more detail.