A Systems Theory of Religion
A Systems Theory of Religion, still unfinished at Niklas Luhmann's death in 1998, was first published in German two years later thanks to the editorial work of André Kieserling. One of Luhmann's most important projects, it exemplifies his later work while redefining the subject matter of the sociology of religion. Religion, for Luhmann, is one of the many functionally differentiated social systems that make up modern society. All such subsystems consist entirely of communications and all are "autopoietic," which is to say, self-organizing and self-generating. Here, Luhmann explains how religion provides a code for coping with the complexity, opacity, and uncontrollability of our world. Religion functions to make definite the indefinite, to reconcile the immanent and the transcendent. Synthesizing approaches as disparate as the philosophy of language, historical linguistics, deconstruction, and formal systems theory/cybernetics, A Systems Theory of Religion takes on important topics that range from religion's meaning and evolution to secularization, turning decades of sociological assumptions on their head. It provides us with a fresh vocabulary and a fresh philosophical and sociological approach to one of society's most fundamental phenomena.
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able accepted appear assume autopoiesis autopoietic becomes boundaries Buddhism Church concept consciousness context contingency formula culture decisions deconstruction defined Derrida developed distinction distinguish divine dogma domain emerged environment everything evolution evolutionary theory excluded external faith formulated function systems functional differentiation George Spencer-Brown God’s Gotthard Günther Heinz von Foerster historical holy human idea immanence inclusion individual interpretation Jacques Derrida Jean Bottéro Laws of Form logic longer major religions Max Weber meaningful medium of meaning Michel Serres modern society morality negation Nicholas of Cusa Niklas Luhmann nonetheless notion one’s ontological operations organization other-reference paradox plausible political polycontextural possible precisely presupposes problem question reality redemption reentry reference relationship religion system religious communication result rituals sacred second-order observation secularization semantic sense side signified situation social systems sociology sociology of religion specific structural symbolic temporal theology things tradition transcendence transcendental understanding understood unity unobservable Weber