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Title: Critical systems thinking and social systemic transformation in Malawi.
Author: Mvula, Aubrey Harry
ISNI:       0000 0001 3438 4522
Awarding Body: University of Hull
Current Institution: University of Hull
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis considers whether critical systems thinking (CST) may assist with social transformation in Malawi, a largely pre-modem and poverty stricken Third World nation. In the process, which must include modernisation, the country's public services appear to be the most viable catalyst and are, therefore, the focus of this research. However, the services are fraught with multiple interlocking problems, most of which emanate from the fact that public services are inextricably connected to a forbidding context and reality in which they work. Most of the problems are cultural and historical. It is argued in this thesis that the most significanteffect of theforbidding context is in the area of the cognitive development of Malawi's people, including the public servants. Colonial socialisation, State political domination and suppression of social discourse, absence of a democratic ethos in governance and society, lack of investment and fluidity have over the centuries impoverished the context, which is also Malawi's social framework of knowledge. This has hampered the cognitive development of a huge majority of Malawians, and prevented progress in socio-political development. It has also interlocked with other problems to reproduce this reality. The other problems include those of language, deep poverty, wide spread ignorance and illiteracy, ethnic division and lack of opportunity for the majority; lack of socio-economic resources, sub-optimal management, low productivity and paucity of oppositional thinking. It is argued that, in its present form, CST is inadequate for the task of intervening in such a forbidding situation and dealing anywhere near adequately with it. This thesis observes the following as major problems with CST: an inappropriate philosophical grounding, confusion between the ontological order and the epistemic order, lack of appropriate approaches to social reality and inadequacy of theory. The thesis narrates a brief history and development of systems thinking and traces the emergence of CST, which it tests. The initial critical intents of CST are examined together with the philosophy underpinning it, exposing its limitations. Critical realism, represented by the works of Roy Bhaskar, is examined for its suitabilityas new philosophy for science and CST. It is found to be appropriate and is endorsed. Implications for this are considered. This helps to resolve the confusion between the ontological order and the epistemic order in CST and leads to CST's new configuration based on critical realism as the enabling critical framework/meta-theory.Following these gains, a more appropriate approach to social reality is elaborated for CST. The approach projects for CST the basis of a materialistic and science-based method for intervening and achieving social transformation in that context and possibly similar others. It recognises that social structures are activitydependent, concept-dependent, time-space-dependent and social-relation-dependent, and that human activity is dependent on given materials (means, media, resources, and rules), which it transforms. It also recognises that society is the condition of human agency and that human agency is equally a condition for society, which, in continuity, it reproduces and/or transforms. Working with this belief, the thesis explores new material and proposes a theory of development relevant for Malawi, and capable of addressing significantly, the problem of inadequacy of theory in CST. The theory proposed concerns human socialisation and efficacious agency; and directionality of transition, politics of, and limits to social transformation in a society such as Malawi. The utility of this theory has been examined theoretically in this thesis and against findings of field empirical investigations and critical realist analyses thereof. Ideas for methods for a CST intervention in the forbidding context in Malawi are also proposed from there. Additionally, this thesis shows how political thought and action are legitimate social systemic forms of endeavour that need to be included in CST if it is to make any significant impact in coercive contexts. This is considered within a conception of CST in a permanent dialectical relationship between itself as social science and society as the social object that it seeks to deal with and transform. In this relationship, CST is seen as involved and interested in the way social reality must be like and taking an active part in its transformation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy