The Systems paradigm

4.2 System

A ’system‘ is the product of an organized set of subordinate entities, designed by a person to represent the organizational dimension of some real or imaginary state of affairs, in which components are so linked as demonstrably to be affected and affective with respect to the system. Its boundary thus offers resistance to the passage of all entities. The system may nevertheless be richly linked with tramontane entities: all systems so linked are active.

4.3 Types of System

(i) It would relieve the burden of jargon to encourage the convention that a system is an open system unless it is specified as a closed system; the prefix ‚open‘, i.e. ‚linked with entities beyond the boundary‘, is often implicit in current usage [7].
This usage is homologous with that employed to speak of men and madmen.
(ii) Where two systems are joined by linkage across their respective boundaries, they can be said to associate. Where the boundaries of systems intersect, those systems will share at least one subordinate entity: in this case it would be useful to designate the group of systems in question correlative. An example of a set of associated systems is provided by the case of an unwanted child (A), a fostering agency (B), and a childless couple (C), as set out in Fig.4. The systems will be dissociated by the state-change brought about by (B), and a set of correlative systems will be produced, viz. Fig.5. (Note: although, in Fig.5, the boundaries of the two systems intersect, for any component other than the child there remain two boundaries to membership of the other system.)
(iii) Where the boundary of a system envelops another system, the latter takes the special status ’structured component of a superordinate system‘, and must,‘ clearly, be designated sub-system, to avoid semantic confusion. In the case of an extended hierarchy of entities, as exemplified by the series FAMILY: COMMUNITY: RACE: SPECIES there may be a need to refer unambiguously to a system whose boundary: envelops a system already containing a sub-system: in this case the rather cumbersome locution supra-system is apparently unavoidable (and, correspondingly, sub-sub-system).
(iv) A group of systems within which there is a demonstrable path, along the inter-system and intra- system links, between any two components, can usefully be designated a family or a population of systerns.

4.4 Environment

The concept of system exists in opposition to the, concept of aggregate: ‚In aggregates it is significant that the parts are added; in a system it is significant that the parts are arranged‘, Angyal [5]. All that has been said above concerns (static) patterns of organized relationship between entities. The environs of a component are its fellow-components; the environs of a system its correlative and associated systems; the environs of a population of systems being other, populations of systems around and about. The word ‚environment‘ is thus employed by systems thinkers in the sense in which it came into use in the English language — to refer to the immediate surroundings of the subject of discussion. However, confusion can arise when certain entities are discussed (i) as though they were intrinsically environmental; or (ii) when the environment is specified as ‚that over which a manager has no control‘; or again (iii) where any entity with which the system under discussion interacts is treated as constituting its ‚environment‘. The structure of the systems paradigm offered in Fig.3 suggests a form of usage for the word ‚environment‘ — when used in the systems thinking context — that we may find it economical to encourage: in effect, it suggests that we avoid using the word when we might otherwise reasonably say ‚… now let’s have a look at those systems with which the system we are mainly concerned is correlated, or associated … ‚ or ‚…now let’s look at the surrounding population of components over which our system has no discernible control…‘, or ‚ … now let’s look at our system in a wider perspective … ‚.

However, phenomenal reality provides enough cases in which we are obliged to deal with systems that have rich organizational links with aggregated as well as systemic entities, that we have a case for considering the usage suggested in Fig.3. Thus a system worthy of serious attention is almost certain to have direct or indirect links with members of an aggregate population. Here there is (within the schema) no logical alternative to the use of the term ‚environment‘ to denote that population.

So, an environment will be constituted by the aggregated sum of the unorganized origins and terminations of links crossing the boundary of the system, or of any system with which it is linked. This gives a nominative sense to the use of the term in system discourse that is distinct from the use of the same word in ail adjectival sense to refer indiscriminately to the immediate surroundings.