Here are a few excerpts:
According to systems theory, innovation emerges from iterated cycles in which data, theory, and the people who collect data and form theory constitute feedback loops, which evolve over time. Each cycle manifests as the gathering and exchange of information among a network of experts who act as gatekeepers to a set of symbolic rules and procedures. Following the terminology of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I call the network of experts a “field,” and the set of symbolic rules and procedures a “domain.” To give examples, topology, physical chemistry, and constitutional law are domains. Each of these domains is associated, respectively, with the fields of mathematicians who specialize in topology; academic and practicing physical chemists; and academics, practicing lawyers, and judges who work on constitutional law.
From the point of view of an economist, the most important difference between systems theory and neoclassical theory may be that systems theory permits for economic actors (the field) to have preference functions (the domain) that evolve over time. As a result, although neoclassical theory is still a useful model of economic activity when changes in preferences are small within the window of time in which economic activity is observed, more generally no stable equilibrium may be reached because preferences may change during the period of observation. In addition, because systems theory need not assume that economic actors know how their preferences have or will change over time, an assumption that actors will try to match their allocation of resources to their preferences can be called “rational” only in a weak sense. Under systems theory, whether an economic actor will engage in an activity of consumption, production, or exchange is a function of: (1) their history of preferences; (2) their history of consumption, production, and exchanges with others; and (3) the frequency of their exchanges with others. Whereas within neoclassical theory institutions are designed to promote allocative efficiency, within systems theory institutions are designed to promote the discovery of information about preferences, and thereby the synchronization and frequency-matching of consumption and production activities through exchange and cooperation.
For example, the systems theory makes explicit the spatial and temporal dynamics underlying the knowledge problem described by F.A. Hayek in “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” With the systems theory in mind, we can identify the function of markets with their facilitation of the exchange of information and coordination of economic activity independent of central planning. This is in stark contrast with neoclassical theory, which often identifies the function of markets with the maximization of aggregate utility based on an assumption of stable preferences — a function that cannot be carried out by a central planner beyond a small scale. The systems theory therefore identifies markets as a mechanism for rewarding information exchange and cooperation, thereby facilitating economic growth.