Niklas Luhmann: The Illumination of Enlightenment

An Observation of an Observer

Bulcsu Bognár

Á propos the recently increasing interest in Luhmann’s social theory it was due to provide a native digest of the results of Luhmann-research. Beside the Hungarian authors’ treaties reflecting on Luhmann’s social theory two important works of Luhmann, until now unpublished in Hungarian, are also getting published.

The first writing of the present block introduces Luhmann’s theory of operative constructivism. An approach that clearly makes itself distinct from the former, subject philosophical approaches represented by the majority as well as from the group of radical constructivists, and which, in contrast with those, operates with the distinctive notions of the system and its environment.

Luhmann in his second writing following the exploration of his epistemological standing first, attempts to interpret the concept of communication constituting the basis of his social theory; second, he argues along several lines for choosing the concept of communication, as oppose to the focus on inter-subjectivity of the tradition of subject philosophy, as a starting point. Luhmann in course of the elaboration of his conception reflects, among others, on Husserl’s transcendental subjectivism, Habermas’ theory of communicative action as well as Karl-Otto Apel’s discursive ethics on their merits.

The block in the discussion opening the series of native reflections centers around the question of the socio-biological foundations of social theory from the mid-80s. Th e discussion between Györgys Kampis and András Karácsony, beyond Luhmann’s references to natural sciences, puts under scrutiny the opportunities to find links between the system theory of social and that of natural sciences. The autopoietic turn of Luhmann’s second epoch raise the question of integration in a new way. Bulcsu Bognár’s article attempted to investigate this issue when he examines the segments of modern integration of society in Luhmann’s life work. Along this he defines the relevance of the language, the symbolically general communication media, the morality, the particular rationality of subsystems, the stable and instable elements of structure-development in terms of the decomposition of dual contingency. András Karácsony’s treaty also relates to one of the principal issues of Luhmann’s social theory, the premise of taking communication as the starting point of analysis. The article seeks the explanation for the question why Luhmann did not build his theory on the concept of human, why he did feel it necessary to reject this starting point as oppose to social theories grounded on anthropological assumptions.

The second group of native reflections concerns, after the more general contents of and links to Luhmann’s social theory, the issue of social subsystems, however, those articles repeatedly refer back to the foundational questions of the theoretical development as well. This kind of analytical process characterizes Anna Wessely’s work as well, which situates Luhmann’s art sociology within the framework of the universal theories of social systems through the interpretation of the book The Art of Society. For the analysis of the political subsystem Balázs Brunczel’s article was written, but that scrutinizes not only the peculiarities of Luhmann’s intentionally not normative theory. It presents, following the reconstruction of the concept of politics, those elements in Luhmann’s political theory which represents the scholar’s intention to manipulate politics. A final article of the block is also engaged with one of the distinctive structures of the society. Márk Áron Éber analyzes the specific semantics of love based on Luhmann’s—in Hungarian first published and the most popular— work Love as Passion.

Released: Replika 66, 5–138.