Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998)

Major work:


Key figures:

Social differentiation, Systems theory

Functionalist and Neo-Parsonist systems theory

Habermas, Maturana

Luhmann develops a systems theory that gives an account of the social as a differential unity leading to autonomy of separate elements.

Dual position of individual:

"The phenomenon designated as inclusion...first arises with the disolution of the society of old Europe, which was stratified by estates. This society had asigned each person( more precisely each family) to one and only one stratum. With the transition to a type of differentiation oriented primarily by functions, this order had to be given up. Its place is taken by access regulations. The human being lives as an individual outside of functional systems but every individual must obtain access to every functional system...every functional system takes in the entire population, but only with the segments of its members life conduct that are functionally relevant in a given case." Luhman quoted in Habermas (Post-Metaphysical Thinking, p. 194)

"Differentiation, on Luhmans account consists in the gradual separation of areas of scoial life from each other, their disentanglement from some seemingly global and mythic (but more often religious) over all dynmaic, and their reconstitution as distinct fields with distinct laws and dynamics” Fredric Jameson (A singular modernity, p. 90)

on this site
on other sites
Read essay: Globalization or World Society

Luhmann, Habermas, and the Theory of Communication- Loet Leydesdorff
Radical Philosophy Obituary

Bibliography: Notes on The paradox of system differentiation and the evolution of society The double contingency problem in Luhmanns social systems