The Will to Systems:
From Making Sense to Enframing

(Fuenmayor Arocha, Rams├ęs Leonardo)

"Taking stock historically" was the first subtitle of Professor Peter Checkland's presidential address to the International Society for General Systems Research in June 1987. The title of the address is suggestive: "Images of Systems and the Systems Image" (1988a). By "taking stock historically" Checkland means to make a chronological narrative of different attempts at systems thinking and check what we have "stocked" in what seems to be a common project comprising those different attempts. This teleological written chronicle leading to a "stock" intends to give historical meaning to "soft systems thinking." A cursory inspection of the last 25 years of systems thinking in UK is enough to accept that critical systems thinking is historically indebted to Checkland's soft systems thinking. Hence, the problem about the historical meaning of soft systems thinking is at the root of any other type of systems thinking derived from it; even though such a derivation be by means of logical opposition.

I would like to make another attempt to understand the historical meaning of soft systems thinking, but under a different notion of historical inquiry from the one guiding Checkland's "historical stock." You will later see the difference.

This article was published in Critical Issues in Systems Theory and Practice, ELLIS K. et. al. (eds.), Plenum Press, New York, 1995. pp. 25-33.