Social Systems

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Stanford University Press, 1995 - Social Science - 627 pages
6 Reviews
A major challenge confronting contemporary theory is to overcome its fixation on written narratives and the culture of print. In this presentation of a general theory of systems, Germany's most prominent and controversial social thinker sets out a contribution to sociology that reworks our understanding of meaning and communication.

Luhmann concedes that there is no longer a binding representation of society within society, but refuses to describe this situation as a loss of legitimation or a crisis of representation. Instead, he proposes that we search for new ways of coping with the enforced selectivity that marks any self-description under the conditions of functionally differentiated modern society. For Luhmann, the end of metanarratives does not mean the end of theory, but a challenge to theory, an invitation to open itself to theoretical developments in a number of disciplines that, for quite some time, have been successfully working with cybernetic models that no longer require the fiction of the external observer.

Social Systems provides the foundation for a theory of modern society that would be congruent with this new understanding of the world. One of the most important contributions to social theory of recent decades, it has implications for many disciplines beyond sociology.


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Luhmann has been accused of over abstraction. Such claims imply absolutes, or at least norms, which should be adhered to by reasonable, rational people. If you agree with this last sentence, you most likely will not get a lot from Social Systems. If, on the other hand, you have the odd question about the complacencies within which the construction of the world appears to reside, there is much to be gained from a languid immersion into this book. _thomkk_ 


On the Concepts
Preface to the German Edition
The Individuality of Psychic Systems

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About the author (1995)

Niklas Luhman is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Bielefeld. Several of his books have appeared in English, most recently Essays in Self-Reference

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