Short works

Books : reviews

Walter Buckley.
Sociology and Modern Systems Theory.
Prentice-Hall. 1967

Although the critics of consensus and equilibrium theory are many, very few of these critics have come forth with something to take the place of these theories. The purpose of Sociology and Modern Systems Theory is to argue for replacing the now outmoded mechanical equilibrium and organismic models of society with a more viable and appropriate conceptual framework. This new framework is based on modern systems research, especially General Systems Research, cybernetics, and information and communication theory.

After a critique of current “social system” theory, showing specifically where its underlying models break down, the book is devoted to the construction of a new model. This new model of the sociocultural system sees the latter as a complex, adaptive system which, by its very nature continually generates, elaborates, and restructures patterns of meanings, actions, and interactions. The new model also takes into account those features of society that are widely recognized as particularly poorly handled in dominant theory—specifically, conflict, deviance, collective behavior, coercive power, and social change.

In developing the new model of the sociocultural system, a number of very recent departures in social theory are discussed critically and related to the modern systems view. These include:

  • exchange theory
  • role theory
  • field or interpersonal theories of psychological functioning
  • several theories of the process of institutionalization

The reader is warned that he will not find here a new sociological theory, in the stricter sense of that term, but he will find a newer social system model and a number of current middle level theories outlined that suggest that modem systems theory is not foreign to much of the pioneering work currently produced.