Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)


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Luhmann called this process of reproduction from elements previously filtered from an over-complex environment autopoiesis pronounced "auto-poy-E-sis"; literally: self-creation , using a term coined in cognitive biology by Chilean thinkers Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela.

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Social systems are operationally closed in that while they use and rely on resources from their environment, those resources do not become part of the systems' operation. Both thought and digestion are important preconditions for communication, but neither appears in communication as such. Maturana, however, argued very vocally that this appropriation of autopoietic theory was conceptually unsound, as it presupposes the autonomy of communications from actual persons.

That is, by describing social systems as operationally closed networks of communications, Luhmann according to Maturana ignores the fact that communications presuppose human communicators. Autopoiesis only applies to networks of processes that reproduce themselves, [11] but communications are reproduced by humans. For this reason, the analogy from biology to sociology does not, in this case, hold. Communication is made possible by human bodies and consciousness, [13] but this does not make communication operationally open.

To "participate" in communication, one must be able to render one's thoughts and perceptions into elements of communication. This can only ever occur as a communicative operation thoughts and perceptions cannot be directly transmitted and must therefore satisfy internal system conditions that are specific to communication: intelligibility, reaching an addressee and gaining acceptance. Luhmann likens the operation of autopoiesis the filtering and processing of information from the environment to a program , making a series of logical distinctions in German, Unterscheidungen.

Here, Luhmann refers to the British mathematician G. Spencer-Brown 's logic of distinctions that Maturana and Varela had earlier identified as a model for the functioning of any cognitive process. The supreme criterion guiding the "self-creation" of any given system is a defining binary code.

Although Luhmann first developed his understanding of social systems theory under Parsons' influence, he soon moved away from the Parsonian concept. The most important difference is that Parsons framed systems as forms of action , in accordance with the AGIL paradigm. Parsons' systems theory treats systems as operationally open , and interactive through an input and output schema. Influenced by second-order cybernetics , Luhmann instead treats systems as autopoietic and operationally closed.

Social systems are defined by Luhmann not as action but as recursive communication. Modern society is defined as a world system consisting of the sum total of all communication happening at once, [17] and individual function systems such as the economy, politics, science, love, art, the media, etc. Another difference is that Parsons asks how certain subsystems contribute to the functioning of overall society.

Luhmann starts with the differentiation of the systems themselves out of a nondescript environment. While he does observe how certain systems fulfill functions that contribute to "society" as a whole, he dispenses with the assumption of a priori cultural or normative consensus or "complimentary purpose" which was common to Durkheim and Parsons' conceptualization of a social function. Finally, the systems' autopoietic closure is another fundamental difference from Parsons' concept.

Each system works strictly according to its very own code and can observe other systems only by applying its code to their operations. For example, the code of the economy involves the application of the distinction between payment and non-payment. Other system operations appear within the economic field of references only insofar as this economic code can be applied to them.

Hence, a political decision becomes an economic operation when it is observed as a government spending money or not. Likewise, a legal judgement may also be an economic operation when settlement of a contractual dispute obliges one party to pay for the goods or services they had acquired. The codes of the economy, politics and law operate autonomously, but their "interpenetration" [21] is evident when observing "events" [22] which simultaneously involve the participation of more than one system.

One seemingly peculiar, but within the overall framework strictly logical, axiom of Luhmann's theory is the human being's position outside any social system, initially developed by Parsons. In Luhmann's terms, human beings are neither part of society nor of any specific systems, just as they are not part of a conversation. Luhmann himself once said concisely that he was "not interested in people". That is not to say that people were not a matter for Luhmann, but rather, the communicative actions of people are constituted but not defined by society, and society is constituted but not defined by the communicative actions of people: society is people's environment, and people are society's environment.

Thus, sociology can explain how persons can change society; the influence of the environment the people on the system the society , the so-called "structural coupling". In fact Luhmann himself replied to the relevant criticism by stating that "In fact the theory of autopoietic systems could bear the title Taking Individuals Seriously , certainly more seriously than our humanistic tradition" Niklas Luhmann, Operational Closure and Structural Coupling: The Differentiation of the Legal System , Cardozo Law Review, vol.

Friedrich Kittler

Yet the vast amount of research on international regimes in the neoliberal-institutionalist tradition combined with the newer constructivist research agenda shows that international politics can no longer be described as the mere interaction of foreign policies, but can be conceived as functional politics in the sense that it orients political processes towards the processing of functionally defined problems — and not towards the pursuit of interests ascribed to actors.

Beisheim et al. Goldstein et al. If thus understood contributions from IR provide possible correctives to an MST view on world society and its political system, why then, it might be legitimate to ask, not leave it at this and assume that the IR—MST relation forms an intellectual one-way street?

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Luhmann b. All regulation of the operations of function systems is selfregulation; a political action is only observed by the economic system on the basis of its own operational code, i. The only question then is whether a complex strategy of regulation can condition how the economic system observes political communication.

While in fact there have been attempts to devise a theory of regulating complex social systems on an MST basis cf. Luhmann a: 27ff. In fundamental opposition to most concepts of power as employed in IR, MST points out that power can not be understood as a capability of something or someone, but needs to be conceived as code-driven communication cf. Luhmann d: For power to function as such a medium, i. This credibility of power depends on its symbolization and the exceptionality of the use of negative sanctions. Thus, for example, from a systems theoretical point of view one might suspect that what IR realists observe to constitute the core of state power, i.

Albert b , this power must not be utilized too frequently. The difference between government and opposition provides a coding required to ensure the function of providing the capacities for collectively binding decisions. The code fulfills all attributes of a preference coding. One participates in the government rather than in the opposition. Only the government can fill those positions on which a collectively binding decision is possible. The opposition can but lament, criticize, articulate demands, and, in general, reflect the contingency of all political desicions.

The system creates indeterminacies necessary for its operative closure through political elections. While it is less clear at present as to whether or which code has replaced it, one might suspect that we are in midst of a phase of system-wide perturbations and 28 Mathias Albert selections, which have as yet not led to discernable evolutionary restabilizations.

Thinking IR theory sociologically Observing IR from the standpoint of MST and vice versa extends a double invitation: an invitation to think IR theory sociologically, and an invitation for MST to observe developments in the political system as described by the discipline of International Relations. Yet, IR theory and a theory of world society are and remain two different things, an observation of the political system of world society on the one hand, and an observation of world society on the other.

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But only on the basis of ontological worldviews and empiricist epistemologies, associated with a modernist ideology of scientific progress, can this appear to be an unsatisfactory state of affairs. It thus transcends the boundaries between the empirical, the theoretical, and the metatheoretical.

Vice versa, MST provides a rich vocabulary through which international politics can be observed and replaced in conceptual frameworks which may seem unusual to the IR scholar at first, but which bear On the Modern Systems Theory of society and IR 29 potentially rich fruit when it comes to assess, for example, the limits and possibilities of politics in a global system. In so doing, MST provides a comprehensive view of the world to which IR can profitably relate itself, given the arguable lack of any such comprehensive theoretical framework in contemporary IR theory.

Observing International Relations: Niklas Luhmann and world politics

For exemplary overviews of the regime and the constructivist agendas, see Hasenclever et al. Since the mids, IR Theory as most of the international social sciences has been preoccupied by the Foucault—Habermas controversy.

Constructivist Foundations

As far as I can see, the value of an encounter between Modern Systems Theory and IR Theory lies primarily in: a the problematization of the nation state as the basic unit of political organization and international politics, and especially the idea that nations are normatively integrated; b the provision of a global framework for the analysis of an increasingly functionally organized society in which territorial demarcations become less important; and c the advancement of a radically constructivist epistemology, which however enables scientific engagement in the form of second-order observations.

This is, of course, not what the editors of this volume suggest, and so I am happy to explore further what is in Modern Systems Theory for IR. However, I would like to raise a cautionary note at this stage of the endeavor. This is, of course, a very particular statement from a very particular point of view, and given the importance of context in both poststructuralism and Modern Systems Theory, I should make that particular trajectory clear. My interest in analyzing international, and specifically European, politics has always been driven by a critical concern.

I agree with both Luhmann and Foucault that this critical concern cannot consist of setting a universal normative standard. Nonetheless, to my mind it is possible, although not unproblematic, to formulate a postmodern international ethics, which takes as its basis the very principle of diversity itself see Diez , Ashley and Walker ; Campbell In contrast to this, the process of European integration provides an opportunity to reshape the classic solution to the diversity problem in international politics.

The traditional way to see this process is as one of long-term statebuilding cf. We may thus be at a crucial juncture. The way European governance gets discursively constructed can proceed in a number of ways. In that respect, it seems to me that the construction of European governance as a network provides an alternative to the state-trajectory because its mode of legitimization is dominated by decentralized and multiple forms of direct participation in decision-making and the possibility to articulate diverse identities cf. Diez ; ; Jachtenfuchs et al.


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Diez ; a — an example of this was a speech of Commission President Romano Prodi in the European Parliament, where he suggested that such a form of 32 Thomas Diez network governance should be the prime future vision for the EU cf. Prodi But how can the debate be shifted towards this construction? Such a transformation rests on the day-to-day political practices of many — of those in influential political positions both in the member states and on the European level; of those bearing responsibility in sub- and transnational organizations; of those working in NGOs and pressure groups; of those making daily decisions in the bureaucracies; of those teaching European politics in universities, etc.

It is this political practice that cannot be domesticated, and is always open for surprises. From a Foucauldian perspective, a central task of the social theorist is not to tell people what to do, but to open up the space for them to articulate their own identities and visions cf.

Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition) Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)
Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition) Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)
Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition) Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)
Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition) Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)
Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition) Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)
Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition) Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)
Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition) Die Gesellschaft als Geschichte: Ein Beitrag zu Luhmanns ,,Realität der Massenmedien (German Edition)

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