A review of perturbative many-body descriptions of several nuclear systems is presented. Symmetric and asymmetric nuclear matter and finite nuclei with few valence particles are examples of systems considered. The many-body description starts with the most recent meson-exchange potential models for the nucleon-nucleon interaction, an interaction which in turn is used in perturbative schemes to evaluate the effective interaction for finite nuclei and infinite nuclear matter. A unified perturbative approach based on time-dependent perturbation theory is elaborated. For finite nuclei new results are presented for the effective interaction and the energy spectra in the mass areas of oxygen, calcium and tin. 166 refs., 83 refs., 21 tabs.