In Third World agricultural research of household-managed production units, the systems approach is applied in the form of Farming Systems Research (FSR). Several authors reviewed here have criticized the way in which this is done. It appears that most of them neglect the fact that most FSR belongs to the "hard" systems approach. The problem context (the household production unit and its surrounding socioeconomic system), however, consists of sense-giving subjects, which have conflicting goals and interests. Their thinking and behavior are determined largely by power relations. Therefore, in FSR, the hard systems approach should be discarded and a critical alternative approach should be developed instead.