Luhmann’s systems theory


Modern society [1] Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) was a German sociologist who developed a general systems theory of modern society. The American social systems theorist Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was a major influence – for the idea of social systems -, but so were the Chileans Humberto Maturana (1928-2021) and his student Francisco Varela (1946-2001) – for the idea of autopoiesis. Steffen Roth (1976) is a very active Luhmann scholar. According to Luhmann modern society evolved from the 16th to 18th century by differentiating largely independent function systems such as law, politics, science, economy, religion, and media. The function systems were not so much human designs as globally emerging patterns of social differentiation in a historically evolving environment, which to a large extent was shaped by those same emerging function systems. ‘Social systems theory does not describe reality as it “essentially” is, but as what it has actually become – and it…

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