Archive | 2019

Niklas Luhmann’s system theory: A critical analysis



This article considers the nature of the theoretical legacy - the system theory - of the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. The author focuses on three topics: first, he briefly describes Luhmann’s ideas in the context of the contemporary sociological thought; second, he identidies how Luhmann’s works are perceived today; third, he presents a new reflection on Luhmann’s works. Paradigmatically, Luhmann’s ideas can be attributed to the system theory, neo-functionalism and radical constructivism due to his efforts to find inspiration in natural sciences. At the same time, Luhmann found himself in the close position to the traditions of the German philosophical idealism. Although the system theory is holistic in nature, Luhmann used for its elaboration elements of the individualist-oriented approach (based on Max Weber’s ideas). Thus, in Luhmann’s conception, systems become holistic entities that, like individual subjects, are capable of making decisions and managing themselves. One of the strengths of Luhmann’s conception is determined by his evolutionary theory consistent with random (in Luhmann’s terms - contingent) development connected with the idea of an open future. As with Parsons, in Luhmann’s conception we find emphasis on the consensus ensured by communication processes. However, what is missing, are the topics of work, production, conflict, struggle and violence. The current decline in the interest in Luhmann’s works has been reinforced by the fact that he was unable to translate his conceptions into instruments for the empirical sociological research. Nevertheless, Luhmann’s theory of a functionally differentiated society and its consequences still represents a significant stimulus for the contemporary sociological thought.

Volume 19
Pages 607-616
DOI 10.22363/2313-2272-2019-19-4-607-616
Language English
Journal None

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