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Beyond Substance? Problems and Perspectives of the Luhmann's Systemic Theory

Author(s): Angelos Mouzakitis

Journal: Intellectum
ISSN 1790-8426

Volume: 06;
Issue: 08;
Start page: 75;
Date: 2011;

This paper explores the significance of Luhmann’s systems theory for contemporary social theory. Departing from the model of systems theory developed by Parsons and inspired by a controversial interpretation of Husserl’s phenomenology, Luhmann’s work offers a rather idiosyncratic, yet challenging account of central problems in social theory. Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of difference as the foundation of Luhmann’s systems theory and on the assessment of his post-humanist attack on the notion of the ‘subject. Luhmann’s innovative and dynamic interpretation of the traditional distinction between system and environment, the idea of an ‘open’ system, his appropriation of the notion of autopoiesis and the peculiar twist given to the notion of double contingency are also discussed, in relation to the age-old problem of social change and the determination of social-political action, especially under conditions of modernity. Finally, emphasis is given to his attempt to revolutionise the epistemological perspective of the social sciences and to the ontological status ‘society’ acquires in the context of Luhmann’s approach.
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