Symposium G. Observing Luhmann

Chairs: Eva Buchinger, Austrian Institute of Technology, Vienna, Austria, Manfred Füllsack, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Paper presentations and roundtable discussion

One aspect that distinguishes the Theory of Social Systems as proposed by Niklas Luhmann from other system theories is its attention for the observer-dependency of its issues. Particularly system theories with a strong background in physics often complain that the consideration of the observer condemns the Luhmannian theory to an infinite regress. Its applicability therewith is said to be limited. In terms of interacting complex dynamics however, the relationship of observer and observed can be seen as generating attractors which might prove stable enough to provide footing for further operations. Not only in this regard, the Luhmannian Theory of Social Systems seems to be reconcilable with more physically oriented system theories.

This symposium shall focus on possibilities and suggestions for such reconciliations, and in general, on attempts to apply the Luhmannian theory to empirical and quantitative research.


Session 1

  • Füllsack, Manfred: Communication and Eigenform
  • Pires, Edmundo B.: The Epistemological Meaning of Luhmann’s critique of classical ontology

Session 2

  • Neumayer, Karl, Petta, Paolo: Towards the Development of a Conceptual Framework for an Applied Theory of Problem Structuring for Complex Agents: Questions to Luhmann’s Social System Theory
  • Buchinger, Eva: Observing observers: Using Luhmann’s theory of social systems to conceptualize public governance processes
  • Vélez-Cuartas, Gabriel: Networks and SST coupled to map science evolution. A structural model to map social systems