Luhmann Explained: From Souls to Systems

Luhmann Explained: From Souls to Systems

Luhmann Explained: From Souls to Systems

Luhmann Explained: From Souls to Systems

Excerpt

In their "revolutionary" bestseller Empire, authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2000, 13 and 15) state that Niklas Luhmann, along with John Rawls, was a main influence on their work. Just as Hardt and Negri's project does, Niklas Luhmann's social theory presents a challenging, avant-garde view of contemporary society. The present book will highlight its unique relevance in regard to current social and political issues. At the same time, it attempts to provide English-speaking readers with a comprehensive introduction to his work, for it is not yet as accessible in English as it is in German, Spanish, and Italian. This is not to deny that major achievements have already been made. Luhmann's earlier magnum opus, Social Systems, was translated into English as early as 1995, and in the past few years a good number of other works have become available. In addition, there are also some very fine secondary studies, for example, by William Rasch (2000), and Michael King and Chris Thornhill (2003). There is also the highly recommended introduction to Social Systems by Eva M. Knodt, and a concise synopsis of Luhmann's theory by Gotthard Bechmann and Nico Stehr (2002).

No single work, including this one, can pretend to exhaustively present all of Luhmann's ideas—that would be too much to cover in a brief introduction. My special focus will be not only the avantgardism and relevance of Luhmann's social theory, but also the more philosophical issues touched on by his writings. I will, moreover, concentrate to a great extent on the later Luhmann, particularly on his grand treatise The Society of Society (Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, 1997), on Introduction to Systems Theory (Einfuhrung in the Systemtheorie, 2002, a posthumously published transcript of a 1991/92 lecture series), and on The Reality of the Mass Media (Die Realität der Massenmedien, 1996).

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