Editorial 8 (2002) H.1
Urs Stäheli / Rudolf Stichweh
Introduction: Inclusion/Exclusion Systems Theoretical and
Together, the distinction between inclusion/exclusion and the problem
of the formation of socio-cultural identities embrace a large variety
of social phenomena and theoretical problems that, to a degree independently
of one another, have taken shape as central research foci in various
theoretical approaches and disciplines in recent years. This special
issue of 'Soziale Systeme' addresses different systems theoretical
and poststructuralist perspectives dealing with the connection between
inclusion and exclusion processes and the constitution of social,
cultural and political identities. The papers in this volume were
delivered at the conference 'Inlcusion / Exlcusion and Socio-Cultural
Identities' which was held at the 'Centre for Interdisciplinary
Studies' (ZIF), University of Bielefeld, in March 2001. We would
like to thank the ZIF for its financial and organizational support
for this conference.
Systems theoretical and poststructuralist approaches diverge significantly
in their conception of how to link inclusion/exclusion with the
constitution of identities. Poststructuralist approaches analyse
the constitution of identities from the standpoint of agonistic
and antagonistic (discursive) practices (Hall 1991; Hall / du Gay
1996; Butler 1990; 1993; 1997; Laclau 1996; Laclau / Mouffe 1984).
The constitution of collective identities is understood as a precarious
process of identification, which inevitably depends on creating
an area of exclusion and the excluded. What are of interest here
are processes and modes of drawing frontiers, as well as how the
included is affected by the excluded. However, this focus on the
constitution of identities often neglects to note that conditions
of inclusion and exclusion are also structured by functional systems.
In contrast to poststructuralist accounts of identity, Luhmann's
systems theory understands the twin concepts of inclusion and exclusion
as a correlate of functional differentiation (Luhmann 1995; 1997;
Stichweh 1988; Stichweh 1997; Stichweh 1998; Göbel / Schmidt
1998). Function systems are confronted with a tension between an
all-inclusive semantics of the inclusion of everyone (e.g. human
rights, constructions of citizenship etc.) and phenomena of exclusion
at the level of social structure. Counted as to-be-included are
individuals who are not included in their total existence as psychic
systems and bodies, but only by being addressed as 'persons' in
communication (Luhmann 1995; Fuchs 1997). This implies also that
not simply individuals, but specifically classified individuals
are included or excluded, so that processes of classification also
determine how the distinction between inclusion/exclusion operates.
Although systems theory offers a highly developed vocabulary for
thinking processes of inclusion and exclusion, the question of socio-cultural
identities as effects of inclusion and/or exclusion is only illustratively
addressed (e.g. fundamentalist identities or protest identities).
Taken seriously, our observation that inclusion and exclusion processes
produce identities must lead to the systematic question of how to
explain the persistence of identities that are not in line with
functional differentiation. For example, the semantic and socio-structural
'success' of gender identities (Cornell 1992; Pasero 1994; Tyrell
1986; Weinbach / Stichweh 2001; Stäheli 2003) or of ethnic
identities (Nassehi 1990; Stichweh 1997) points at the problematic
relation between identity formation and functional differentiation.
While systems theory has only recently addressed such questions
of identity, they occupy a prominent position in poststructuralist
approaches (Grossberg 1996). Here it is the discursive construction
of identities that interests most centrally: identity is seen as
a category in constant dispute, one that rests of necessity on exclusion.
Moreover, the excluded is understood as a 'constitutive outside'
that haunts the very process of identity constitution.
In terms of their theories of society, poststructuralism and systems
theory take very different positions. Poststructuralist approaches
relate the inclusion-and-exclusion concept to processes of the constitution
and failure of collective identity-formation, with the theoretical
basis of these processes being thought of in terms of a hegemony
model in the tradition of Gramsci. That is, inclusion and exclusion
processes are ultimately explained in terms of a model of society
based on a theory of power, in which hegemonic and anti-hegemonic
forms of identity are in perpetual conflict. Inclusion/exclusion
then, necessarily, becomes a political question, nurtured by the
"horror of indeterminacy" (Bauman 1991) of inclusion and
exclusion. This problematizes the very possibility of drawing a
definite and clear boundary between inside and outside. This undecidability
questions the very idea of stable identities, thus assuming necessarily
contaminated identities (Bhabha 1994). Now, the question arises
of how the re-emergence of the outside within the inside is politicized
be it as a politics of hybrid identities (Bhabha), the antagonistic
constitution of identities (Laclau/Mouffe) or as the political inclusion
of the outside as 'bare life' (Agamben 1998). In contrast, systems
theory does not automatically conceive of inclusion and exclusion
as a political process. Rather, particular ways of including and
addressing are explained from the viewpoint of function systems
and their autopoiesis. Exclusion and inclusion identities may crystallize
at points of inclusion and exclusion, but are neither prerequisites
nor necessary effects of the autopoiesis of function systems. This,
however, does not mean that systems theory is not interested in
the complexity of the distinction between inclusion and exclusion
which is exemplified with the re-entry of the distinction within
itself. Instead of speaking about 'hybridization', systems theory
prefers to speak of the re-entry of the distinction inclusion /
Despite all these differences, systems and discourse theoretical
concepts of inclusion / exclusion reveal similarities with regard
to their formal construction, insofar as inclusion necessarily implies
the counter-concept exclusion, which means that the possibility
of a universal all-inclusion is ruled out from the first. Not only
are both theoretical positions interested generally in inclusion
and exclusion processes, but also in their specific modern form.
The problem of socio-cultural identity arises from the breakdown
of all-inclusive and stable categories of identity, as well as from
the irreconcilability of different identities which comes about
through this (Calhoun 1995). Systems theory tries to account for
the impossibility of including the individual as whole by suggesting
the concept of 'exclusion individuality' (Exklusionsindividualität).
This concept attaches the possibility of individuality to the condition
that no individual is included in only one particular function system,
thus obtaining his / her individuality precisely from her/his 'individuality'
being excluded from all the inclusions of this individual (Luhmann
1989). In this sense, the concept of 'exclusion individuality' describes
individuality as a typically modern phenomenon based on the functional
differentiation of society. No individual is completely integrated
into only one function system (with the important exception of the
family system), but instead individuality as a whole is precisely
what escapes the selective perspectives of function systems.
In poststructuralist theories, the idea of a completely included
individual also becomes problematic, since it is impossible to consign
somebody to only one discourse and moreover, even the plural
identities are never fully 'sutured' (Lacan) identities, i.e. they
are always already marked by their necessary failure to achieve
fullness. This impossibility (which, of course, does not mean that
there are no attempts at identification and totalization!) also
affects the idea of 'exclusion individuality'. The concept of individuality
itself - including that of 'exclusion individuality' - can no longer
evade heterogenization, and thus cannot offer any 'private' integration
of individual identity either. The assumption of the decentring
of the subject means for the conceptualization of the individual
that its unity is put at risk. These always unstable and disputed
forms of identity then also need strategic forms and technologies
of identity management (Calhoun 1995; Dean 1992). Social and cultural
identities are no longer understood as stable categories with an
"essentialist" core, but rather as precarious identification
processes (Hall 1991; Hall / du Gay 1996; Zizek 1989) processes
that require constant 're-iteration' (Butler 1993; 1997) and thus
hinder an ultimate fixing of identity. While systems theory retains
the modern subject in the form of 'exclusion individuality', poststructuralist
approaches problematize even this identity.
The different contributions to this volume try to address these
theoretical tensions and they try to show exemplarily how processes
of identity formation can be analysed in terms of inclusion and
exclusion. The variety of topics addressed here ranging from
the foreigner, Lenin's theory of the party, the popular speculator,
Captain Ahab to the Last Mohican show that problems of identity
formation are not restricted to the 'mantra' of Cultural Studies
(race, gender and class). In this way, we hope to establish perspectives
which would neither seem to conceptualize the de-construction of
identity as an unexpected by-product of functional differentiation,
nor society as something resulting above all from a battle for identities.
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Dr. Urs Stäheli, Fakultät für Soziologie, Universität
P.O. 100 131, D-33501 Bielefeld
Prof. Dr. Rudolf Stichweh, Fakultät für Soziologie, Universität
P.O. 100 131, D-33501 Bielefeld