A system: More than the sum of its parts

April 7, 2016

Systems are networks of relations that create something greater (as the old adage suggests) than the sum of their parts.


A bicycle is a system we use to go from one place to another. Two wheels, hand brakes, pedals, chains, sprockets, a frame and seat are parts that create the bicycle. Without one or more of the parts there is no bicycle. This is interesting.

I drive an old Mercedes diesel station wagon. It runs on diesel. It will also run on vegetable oil. But, if I put gasoline in it the engine is ruined and the car no longer runs. I’ve changed the system or network of parts so that the car no longer runs.

So a system is a network of interdependent relations. A social system arises from social health, that is relationships that are mutually respectful, supportive, honest, open. And, loving where everyone in the network of conversations accepts everyone else in the network of conversations as legitimate contributors. The quality of relations determines all that occurs in a social system.

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