An analytical tool to understand Pakistan | Political economics


A A recent point of discussion among a few young scholars was whether a social science theory could be deployed to explain the Pakistani state and society. Pakistan is difficult for political scientists to study. Some of its state institutions suffered severe damage; some of its colonial structures persist without validation of their relevance; and its status as a modern political nation-state backed by religious ideology creates permanent ambiguity and dichotomy.

Society is also divided along castes, creeds, ethnicities, languages, and sects, making it difficult for a single theory to properly explain the highly complex social reality.

After a long interaction, a handful of them agreed on the systems theory. But many in the group were unclear about systems theory and its relevance to the Pakistani state and its constituent institutions.

Therefore, it is the subject of today’s column. Initially, I will try to define it. Then, I will discuss its essential aspects. Finally, we will see if it can be applied to the Pakistani state system. Can systems theory provide a model that might suggest a way to reform the system from within?

Systems theory, also called social systems theory, is the study of a society as a complex arrangement of things, including individuals and their beliefs, in relation to a whole (e.g., a country) . The study of society as a social system has a long history in the social sciences. Each system is bounded by space and time, influenced by its environment, defined by its structure and purpose, and expressed by its functioning.

Thus, its relationship with the land is important. Abstract notions, such as the ideology of Pakistan, can only be brought to life by contextualizing environment, space, time and structures. The basic idea behind systems theory is that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

The goal of systems theory is to model the dynamics, constraints, and conditions of a system and to elucidate the principles (such as purpose, measurement, methods, tools) that can be discerned and applied to other systems at all levels and in a wide range of domains to achieve optimized equifinality.

General systems theory is about developing broadly applicable concepts and principles, as opposed to concepts and principles specific to a particular area of ​​knowledge. It distinguishes dynamic or active systems from static or passive systems. This is the basic reason why Pakistani scholars should study systems theory seriously and use it as an analytical tool.

Systems theory, also called social systems theory, is the study of society as a complex arrangement of things, including individuals and their beliefs, in relation to a whole (eg, a country). The study of society as a social system has a long history in the social sciences.

Active systems are activity structures or components that interact in behaviors and processes. Passive systems are structures and components in process. For example, a program is passive when stored in a disk file and active when it runs. The field is related to systems thinking, machine logic, and systems engineering.

As a transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary and multiperspective enterprise, systems theory brings together principles and concepts from ontology, philosophy of science, physics, computer science, biology and engineering. , as well as geography, sociology, political science, systemic therapy psychotherapy) and economics. Its characteristic multidisciplinarity is greatly needed in Pakistani academia.

Systems theory promotes dialogue between autonomous fields of study as well as within systems science itself. In this regard, in view of the possibility of misinterpretation, Ludwig von Bertalanffy argued that a general systems theory “should be an important regulatory device in science”, to guard against superficial analogies which “are useless in science and harmful in their practical consequences”. Bertalanffy is therefore an extremely significant character. A brief introduction to his career is provided in the following paragraph.

Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy (September 19, 1901 – June 12, 1972) was an Austrian biologist and one of the founders of general systems theory (GST). His theory had implications that transcended the boundaries of his own discipline and continued to have significant impact in the social sciences and humanities.

According to Weckowicz, Bertalanffy “occupies an important place in the intellectual history of the twentieth century. His contributions went beyond biology and extended to cybernetics, education, history, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology and sociology. Some of his admirers even believe that this theory will one day provide a conceptual framework for all these disciplines. I think that is what deserves our attention.

Systems theory offers us a relevant framework to study a plural socio-political entity, like Pakistan because of its evolutionary configuration. It imposes no specificity that contravenes the immediacy of the spatio-temporal environment.

Through the use of systems theory, one can challenge the watertight compartmentalization that Western modernity has put in place. An indigenization of epistemic structures and the application of locally tested customary practices find their articulation in systems theory. That said, I don’t want to sound like I’m arguing for theory.

Pakistani scholars need to initiate a debate on systems theory to better understand its relevance to our state and society. Meaningful dialogue needs to take place in the ostensibly silent spaces of Pakistani universities and research institutes, not only at the level of academics but also at the level of young university students who should engage with such analytical tools to achieve greater understanding. from Pakistan. This can be the first decisive step towards finding a solution to the complex problems facing Pakistan.

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