Ecological systems theory is explicated as a current form of successive systems models used in social work. Behavior principles assumptive in this model are identified: of exchange balance, inner consistency, and dialectial change. Several misconceptions of ecological systems theory and a cultist aspect of its current popularity are addressed. Advantages, including the emergence of practice principles derived from this model, as well as its limitations are then discussed. The charge that systems theory helps maintain the status quo and the use of systems theory by radical proponents of system change are considered in terms of the dual function of social work: to serve as an instrument of both social stability and social change. It is suggested that both conservative and radical contributions to current systems theory and practice are needed in order to implement this dual function.

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