According to Bales, 1999, the concept behind SYMLOG is that "every act of behavior takes place in a larger context, that it is a part of an interactive field of influences." Further, "the approach assumes that one needs to understand the larger context -- person, interpersonal, group, and external situation -- in order to understand the patterns of behavior and to influence them successfully." With SYMLOG, measurement procedures are used to assess individual behavior patterns and values, as well as to observe these patterns and values in their larger context (Bales, 1999).
The theory is based on findings that are the result of systematic observation of real groups, and performing research to observe the ways in which individuals with different kinds of personalities affect each other in task-oriented groups. This research was conducted over a long period of time with business teams and organizations in the United States and other countries. The methods used have been proven as valid, reliable, and relevant to a wide range of conditions and are intended to improve productivity and performance, increase satisfaction, and reduce stress by understanding the group better (Bales, 1999).
According to Bales, (1999), SYMLOG application may include "assessment of the teamwork and leadership potential of individuals for selection and training, leadership training, and the training of educators in a broad sense, including teachers, coaches, therapists, and other professionals who work primarily with people. The method also provides information and facilities for many kinds of fundamental and applied research in social psychology and sociology."
Due to Bale's groundbreaking theory and extensive research, SYMLOG became the foundation for the SYMLOG Consulting Group (SCG.) the organization is dedicated to the ongoing development and practical use of SYMLOG in applied and academic settings. Located in San Diego, California, SCG is still thriving today, with offices and representatives in thirty countries (SYMLOG Consulting Group Website, 2010).
Kenneth D. Bailey
An American sociologist and systems scientist, Kenneth Bailey was born in 1943. In 1963, he completed his BS in mathematics, earned an MA in sociology in 1966, and a PhD in sociology in 1968. Bailey became a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently a professor emeritus (Wikipedia Website, 2009). Bailey is also a member of the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), where he was president in 2003, (ISSS website, 2007). He has written several books, but for the purposes of this paper, we will focus on Sociology and the New Systems Theory, Toward a Theoretical Synthesis (Bailey, 1994). In the book, Bailey's goal was to present a more integrated perspective on social systems theory, and for the first time, he attempted to synthesize the interrelated approaches of living systems theory, social entropy theory, and autopoiesis. To Bailey, there had been a serious lack of integration in the systems movement, "One of the guiding principles of the systems movement is the need for integration," (Bailey, 1994, p.xiii).
According to Bailey, the integration of these three approaches is what he refers to as the "new systems theory" or the "new social systems theory," as it applies only to systems approaches that directly contribute to social science (Bailey, 1994, p. xiii).
Living systems theory
The culmination of some thirty years of effort, James Grier Miller led a number of scholars in the development of the living systems theory. Living systems theory is considered to be a concrete systems approach, which is defined as being "anchored in physical space-time, and is an interrelated (nonrandom) set of objects such as persons or other organisms." An abstracted system, however, "has relationships or roles as the basic units of analysis rather than objects."
To Miller, concrete systems are preferred because they are easier to understand, operationalize, and provide clear links from the social sciences to other disciplines, (i.e., natural sciences) (Bailey, 1994, p. 169). Miller identifies a living system as a system that maintains a state of negentropy, taking in energy and information. As stated by Miller, "The living systems are a special subset of the set of all possible concrete systems…They all have the following characteristics:
They are open systems, with significant inputs, throughputs, and outputs of various sorts of matter-energy and information.
They maintain a steady state of negentropy even though entropic changes occur in them as they do everywhere else. This they do by taking in inputs of foods or fuels, matter-energy higher in complexity or organization or negentropy, ie. Lower in entropy, than their outputs (Bailey, 1994, p. 169)."
Also, the theory basically states that all living systems are composed of subsystems, each processing information, or matter-energy, with two subsystems, the reproducer and the boundary, processing both matter-energy and information (Bailey, 1994, p. 171). Miller's book, Living Systems (1978) originally presented nineteen basic subsystems at seven levels, however, he and his wife and co-author, Jessie Miller, have since added the twentieth subsystem, known as the timer, as well as an eighth level, known as the community (Miller and Miller 1992; Bailey, 1994, p. 171-172). According to Bailey, "These twenty subsystems are responsible for the ongoing day-to-day operation of the living system," (Bailey, 1994, p. 172).
In modern society, Bailey claims that "energy and information are symmetrically interrelated in a complex fashion," and that "efficacious usage of energy depends upon information, while transmission of information in turn is only possible through the use of matter to carry the message, and the expenditure of energy to move the message from its origin to its destination," (Bailey, 1994, p.176). Specifically, "the relationship between matter-energy and information is one of the most crucial issues in systems science, and is in a sense the key to understanding how societies operate," stated Bailey.
A few cross-level applications of living systems theory have been performed, as well as numerous theoretical extensions and applications that have appeared since 1978. Some of these applications were conducted by Miller and his students and colleagues, while others were conducted by researchers who were not directly affiliated with Miller but who had read his theory.
Miller and his co-workers performed the largest application of the theory in a study of 41 United States Army battalions. In fact, this study is one of the largest known studies of organizations (Miller, 1985). The conclusions from this massive study indicated that "living systems concepts are understandable to Army personnel, that Army units can be described as living systems, and that LST can help not only in describing phenomena, but also in identifying sources of problems. Besides the army, LST has been applied to a number of different areas, including the family (Miller and Miller, 1980), and small groups," (Miller and Miller, 1983; Bailey, 1994, p. 207-208).
Social entropy theory
The second focus of Bailey's book was social entropy theory (SET). According to Bailey, "Social entropy theory uses the society (in its entirety) as the basic unit. It is not viewed as a "set of individuals" but as a concrete system or population of individuals interacting over physical space-time within boundaries," (Bailey, 1994, p. 229). In addition, Answers.com defines social entropy as a "macrosociological systems theory" and a "measure of the natural decay within a social system. It can refer to the decomposition of social structure or of the disappearance of social distinctions."
Due to the intense study of functionalism and the need to escape some of the challenges that functionalists encountered, social entropy was born. Functionalism is defined in the following way, "In psychology, a broad school of thought that originated in the U.S. In the late 19th century and emphasized the total organism in its endeavors to adjust to the environment. Reacting against the school of structuralism led by Edward Bradford Titchener, functionalists such as William James, George Herbert Mead, and John Dewey stressed the importance of empirical, rational thought over an experimental trial-and-error philosophy. The movement concerned itself primarily with the practical applications of research and was critical of early forms of behaviourism," (Answers.com, 2010).
SET is based on a number of its own principles as well as the following "two critiques of classical functionalism:
Functionalism suffered from overreliance on outmoded concepts such as equilibrium
Functionalism was not sufficiently broad to achieve an adequate analysis of complex society," (Bailey, 1994, p. 219).
Bailey felt that both critiques of functionalism are consistent, with the first critique exemplifying the second. He also felt that functionalism was overly narrow and over dependent on equilibrium and therefore felt it was necessary to expand the model to include both nonequilibrium and equilibrium analysis. As a result, he stated, "we are less likely to preclude important phenomena that we must study in order to truly understand the social world. Specifically, broadening the model to incorporate both equilibrium and nonequilibrium analysis means not only that we have removed the basic classical complaint about functionalism (that it does not facilitate study of social change) but also that we have updated the model, and allowed it to incorporate…