The Oblivion of Churchman's Plea for a Systems Approach to World Problems. I. The Inseparability of Systems Thinking and World Issues in the Modern Epoch


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Abstract

The presentation of a Systems Approach made by Churchman in 1968 starts from a close link between a systems approach and tackling world problems. The link is so closed that, in the writing of Churchman seems to be a natural, almost genetic, link. Thirty years later we find that such concern for world problems has faded away from systems literature. Why? What was the nature of what for Churchman and other scholars of his time was an obvious link? How can there be such a thing as “world issues” or “world problems”? This is the first article of a trilogy devoted to find a way through those questions. In this first article, initial questioning opens a path of thinking that reveals how modern systems thinking is inseparable from world issues. At the beginning of such a path, Richard Rorty's provocative call to forget about that 5/6 of the world population that cannot be saved is found. Rorty claims that the modern question “what are we?”—which is at the basis of the concern with world problems—has been replaced, in the last 50 years, by the question “who are we?”—which leads to the pragmatical question “Who can be saved?” This in turn means a dramatic change in our moral way of thinking and acting.

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