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SozSys 4 (1998), H.1



Stephan Fuchs/Douglas A. Marshall:
Across The Great (and small) Divides

(Vollständiger Aufsatz)

Postmodernism collapses the dualist metaphysics underlying the Great Divide between Society and Nature in the wrong way, restoring anthropocentrism and Aristotelianism. The constructivist theory of observers is in a better position to render the Two Culture separation obsolete. Personhood and thingness can then be explained as the outcomes of attributions that covary with the social structures of observing. Thinghood and Personhood are achievements from attributions by observers whose own location and relations color the variable modes of their observing. As outcomes – not causes – of social constructions, things and persons are not essentially different natural kinds, but linked by a continuum of transitions and phases. Modernity is special in that more and more observers perform an increasing number of possible combinations and re-combinations between things and persons, or Nature and Society.

Andreas Ziemann:
The Included Excluded: The Problem of Functional Total Inclusion in the context of the German penal law system

Accompanying the process of functional differentiation, the supercode of inclusion/exclusion has come to regulate individual chances of accessing different functional systems. This paper proceeds from this guiding distinction and applies it to an analysis of the German penal law system as a program of the legal system. It is discussed how prisoners, despite being sentenced to imprisonment, enjoy the right to participate in functionally specified communications. This perspective of observation sheds light on the argument that – contrary to a topographically motivated description – there still remains a guarantee for participation in societal processes during physical incarceration. Highlighting the situation of the prisoner, this guarantee will be described as partial total inclusion and analysed with respect to relevant sections of the penal law system. A tentative sketch of possible/desirable developments elaborates on the distinction between personal inclusion and somatic exclusion in order to outline the reform project Falcon in such a manner that it allows to modify physical and spatial exclusion as well as to enable somatic re-inclusion.

Thomas Drepper:
"Differences which Make no Differences". Problems of Inclusion in the Educational System and Their Reflection by the Pedagogics of Integration

The paper addresses problems of inclusion in the educational system and their reflection by the pedagogics of integration. The pedagogics of integration and its main topic and essential programme of a "primary school for all children" criticise the common procedure of sending those children to special schools who are diagnosed as pupils with a special need of furtherance. Integrative pedagogies critically focuses on the traditional organisational differentiation between normal and special schols as well as on the distinction between normal pupils and pupils with a special need of support. In this sense the leading idea of the pedagogics of integration can be seen in cancelling the educational process of segregation which normal separates from handicapped pupils. The thesis of this paper is that the semantics of integration – observed with systems-theoretically informed instruments – addresses with a structural paradox which refers to a fundamental problem of educational communication in the social dimension of social meaning. The meaning of integration produces a semantics which treats one typical paradox of educational communication – the inequality of equals. Using the value of normality, the semantics of integration tries to "invisibilize" this paradox.

Markus Göbel/Johannes F.K. Schmidt:
Inclusion/Exclusion: The Carreer, Problems and Differentiations of a Systems Theoretical Distinction

The paper discusses the distinction of inclusion/exclusion in Luhmann’s theory. The stated conceptual ambivalences in Luhmann’s theory are the results of using the term of inclusion both in the context of the theory of society and in the theory of meaning without making clear how both concepts are connected. As a result, the distinction fa ils to be a useful analytical tool in the theory of society. In a first step, the paper examines the multiple usages of the term inclusion in the systems theoretical literature (I). In a second step, the authors reconstruct the carreer of the concept of inclusion in Luhmann’s theory indicating the central problems and potentials of the concept (II). Against this background and in referring to the early concept of inclusion the paper aims the distinction of complementary roles concerning a specific function (Leistungs- und Publikumsrolle) and develops an analytical tool to grasp deficient forms of inclusion (III). Finally, the authors outline an theoretically and empirically differentiated concept by making a distinction between normal inclusion, limited inclusion and hyper inclusion (IV).

Hartmann Tyrell:
Historical Remarks on the Diversity of the Theory of Social Differeniation

The paper responds to some recent publications in the field of social differentiation; the response is a historical one. On the one hand, its intention is to demonstrate that the idea of social differentiation was born in the middle of the 19th century and that its birth precedes the classical sociology of Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel and Max Weber. It is shown, on the other hand, that there was a considerable diversity in the preclassic and classic discourse on social differentiation. The article stresses three lines of this discourse. The first one is near to biology; it is guided by the organic analogy and represented by Herbert Spencer. The second one traces back to Adam Smith, but had its master in Georg Simmel. In this context ‘social differentiation’ is treated in correlation with other macroprocesses: social growth, (personal) individualization, and the development of the ‘commercial society’ (or in terms of Georg Simmel: ‘Geldwirtschaft’). The third line to be stressed is a specifically German one; the central idea here is that of the differention and growing autonomy of ‘cultural spheres’ (economy, law, religion etc.). It is drawn from Wilhelm Dilthey and its ‘effects’ can be found in Max Weber and in Niklas Luhmann’s theory of functional differentiation, too.

William Rasch:
Luhmann’s Refutation of Idealism? Constructivism as a Two-Front War

This paper uses the occasion of a short passage on causality in Luhmann’s "Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft" to define constructivism not as a firm philosophical position, but as a pragmatic strategy that is guided by "political" interests in its oscillations between realism and idealism. Its commitments are not to reality, but to the description of a functionally differentiated social order.

Horst Firsching: Is the Concept of ‘Society’ Theoretically Useful? About the Problems of the Concept of Society in Niklas Luhmann’s ‘Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft’

Starting from Friedrich H. Tenbruck’s critical questions concerning the sociological mainstream concept of ‘society’ with regard to its supposed autonomy, oneness, unity and identity (Tenbruck demands the renunciation of the concept of ‘society’ wholeheartedly), this essay deals with the concept of ‘society’ in Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory and communication theory – with special reference to his new book ‘Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft’ (The Society of Society). Luhmann defines ‘society’ as that social system which has no social environment at all – in terms of communication theory: there is no ‘communication’ outside of ‘society’, and therefore there cannot be ‘communication’ between ‘societies’. The consequence is the identity of the boundaries of ‘society’ and ‘communication’. This essay seeks to demonstrate that Luhmann does not (and even cannot) follow his own definition consequently, and that this inconsequence leads to aporetical propositions within the context of Luhmann’s arguments undermining his own concept of ‘society’. A fundamental diagnosis like this raises the question whether the modern sociological systems theory has to abandon the concept of ‘society’. In this case, systems theory would be a social theory connected with communication theory that has to consider the varieties of ‘social systems’ and their ‘structural’ and ‘communicative’ connections – without referring to the concept of ‘society’ and its aporetical implication of an absolute boundary of communication; that implies (against Luhmann’s intention): this theory excludes a ‘theory of society’.

Uwe Schimank:
Code – Performances – Function: The Constitution of Societal Subsystems

Despite the paradigm change to an autopoietic perspective on social systems Luhmann still characterizes societal sub-systems by their societal function, and modern society by its functional differentiation. In contrast, it is argued that the differentiation and dynamic of a societal sub-system is determined by the interplay between its binary code, on the one hand, and its multiple relations of performance to other sub-systems.

Manfred Füllsack:
Validity Claims and Second Order Observation. How Close Are Theory of Discourse and Systems Theory?

As part of a research project on the Habermas-Luhmann-debate this paper assumes that there is a fundamental but not unbridgeable difference between discourse theory and systems theory. Particularly Luhmann’s recent book "Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft" enables us to show some analogies in and parallels of the two theories. The paper tries to make such analogies visible by contrasting the Habermasian necessity to anticipate "Geltungsansprüche" with the implications of the Luhmannian "second order observation". The contention of the author is not to reconcile the two conceptions but to help to understand its principles better and to generate new perspectives for social theory.

Armin Nassehi:
Theory of Society and Empirical Research. The Preliminary Notes in Luhmann’s Theory of Society

The paper discusses the methodological preliminary notes in Luhmann’s "Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft". It shows that Luhmann draws much too negative a picture of what is called empirical research in the social sciences. The first part of this paper shows that Luhmann’s criticism of empirical research strongly resembles Adorno’s criticique of empirical sociology in the sixties, if one reads it in terms of an empirical researcher. The author’s contribution tries to emphasize the relevance of empirical research for a systems theoretical perspective on a theory of society.

Nina Ort:
Meaning as Medium and Form. A Contribution to the Understanding of the Concepts of Luhmann’s Theoretical Design

The concept of society as society developed by systems theory helps us to specify the terms of "medium" and "form". On the one hand, the paper argues for a reformulation of Spencer Brown’s concept of form. Instead of thinking a boundary as the boundary between the inside and outside of a form, it is suggested that every crossing of a boundary creates an inside. The medium can only be observed by the system’s internal operations, i.e. as a form. On the other hand, the medium is conceptualized as ultimate foundation of a self-referential system. No operation of a system is able to access this instance. At this position we can locate "concrete human beings", excluded from society as a social system, as a medium.

Niels Werber:
Space and Technology. Problem of Media Theory in Luhmann’s "Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft"

There is no room for space in Luhmann’s sociological theory. Wherever distance or space should matter – for example in the case of distinguishing interaction of persons present from communication of seperated persons via media, or in the case of the so called "media of distribution" -, Luhmann reformulates the problem in terms of time and velocity. But media not only accelerate or store communication in time, each medium is covers certain distances in a particular way, depending upon its materiality. But time, and not space, occupies a privileged place as one of the three dimensions of meaning in the theoretical framework. In Luhmann’s theory the reason for genuine media theoretical blind spots seems to be that any possible effect of space on the process of communication is converted in matters of time. The theory lacks a sufficient reflection on media technologies. Technological differences in covering distances cannot be grasped, if any problem of media theory is only conceived of in terms of temporality.


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