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A Critical Inquiry into the Value of Systems Thinking in the Time of COVID-19 Crisis

Haley, David, Paucar-Caceres, Alberto ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4690-561X and Schlindwein, Sandro (2021) A Critical Inquiry into the Value of Systems Thinking in the Time of COVID-19 Crisis. Systems, 9 (1).

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic offers an historic precedent to review and challenge the values of social, economic, environmental, and cultural belief systems. The concept of the “New Normal” and the experience of the global pandemic provide points of transition in thinking about our relationship to our planet and to each other. These include the fragility of contemporary economics, dependency on industrialized urban infrastructures, and reliance on top-down governance, vulnerability to climate disasters, dislocation from the natural world, societal inequalities, and the loss of cultural memory. The paper considers the potential role of systems thinking in attempting to manage societies’ responses to the pandemic. To provide the methodological context in which some systems thinking can be applied to alleviate the pandemic, we conduct a focused literature review of systemic frameworks, and using examples from Brazil and England, the paper questions the validity of existing disaster management systems and proposes an integrated critical systems approach. Reflecting on these experiences, questions of systems criticality are further developed and considered in relation to critical recovery from disasters and as integral critical systems (ICS) to interrogate the intention of systems. Finally, the paper reflects upon the value of systems and the values embedded in systems that may or may not promote equitable well-being in recovery from disasters such as COVID-19.

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