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Interaction with rule-bound systems : introducing a new 'ideal type' problem context

Clayton, John, writer on critical systems thinking


John, writer on critical systems thinking Clayton


Wendy J. Gregory


This PhD thesis introduces a new ideal-type problem context of rule-bound systems. The thesis has been generated through a belief in the ability of metaphor to make the abstract visible, its capacity to make the unfamiliar familiar, and its effectiveness as a legitimate means of generating insight and organizing knowledge. Metaphorical description remains an integral part of this thesis from beginning to end.

It shows how the new context of rule-bound systems provides closure of the ideal problem context grid along the participants access. Following the ideas that created the basis for this closure, insight into a new role for systems practitioners is provided and the ideal problem context grid developed to form of a Torus.

Part 1 outlines the theoretical foundations and other inspirations that underpin the thesis. Grounded on a wider definition of rules, including rules in both a formal and informal sense, multiple ways of viewing rules are highlighted. The characteristics of rule-bound systems are identified, drawing comparisons with other 'ideal-types'. Suggestions are also drawn out as to how change might be affected in a rule-bound context. Part II of this thesis is an account of a real world intervention informed by Critical Systems Thinking, carried out under the auspices of Participatory Action Research. A number of systems research methods and concepts were employed to investigate the participation of students in policy making in two contrasting senior schools in the North of England - organizations believed to present many of the characteristics of the rule-bound system. The approach used was one mixing methods, specifically, the creation of a symbiotic relationship between Soft Systems Methodology and Critical Systems Heuristics. Part III describes the process of reflection undertaken and the conclusion to the thesis.


Clayton, J. W. O. C. S. T. (2004). Interaction with rule-bound systems : introducing a new 'ideal type' problem context. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 14, 2014
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Nov 1, 2004


Thesis (14 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2004 Clayton, John, writer on critical systems thinking. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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