Conceptualizing social systems: A critical argument for the nonlinear perspective

                         Brodnick, Robert J., Jr.; PhD

                         TEMPLE UNIVERSITY, 2000

                         PHILOSOPHY (0422)

                         For thousands of years societies, cultures, and organizations framed their worlds through a variety of
                         lenses that allowed them to peer into nature and into themselves. Over time these lenses changed. The
                         western world embraced a scientific and linear paradigm. Recently, fresh approaches have arisen
                         through lenses called the new sciences. Discoveries are extending beyond their birthplaces in the
                         physical and biological sciences to impact organizational science and practice. This dissertation
                         compares two perspectives affecting social systems—linear and nonlinear. To give depth to the
                         comparison, contending relationships between the linear and nonlinear perspectives are constructed
                         and critiqued. Given the relative immaturity of chaos and complexity theories, a nontraditional
                         methodology was employed that excluded typical experimental methods. The chosen method compares
                         linear and nonlinear constructs via a comparative framework in the milieu of applied organizational theory.
                         A critical argument is made for the utilization of the nonlinear perspective and extension of the living
                         system metaphor to one of living social systems. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of
                         implications and possible future trajectories for participation in and adaptation of organizations.


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