Samhället som system och dess ekologiska omvärld. En studie i Niklas Luhmanns sociologiska systemteori
Sammanfattning: This thesis is divided into two main parts. The first is an exposé of Niklas Luhmann's comprehensive sociological systems theory, including the basic tenets of the theory, its historical development and central concepts, and discussions. Systems theory is a theory about the distinction between system and environment. Within the framework of Luhmann's systems theory, one can discern three primary levels of analysis: the general theory of self-referential and autopoietic systems; the theory of social systems as autopoietic communication systems; and the theory of society as a separate social system. The emphasis in this thesis, as well as in Luhmanns general approach, rests on the theory of society. The author begins by taking up some of the primary concepts in systems theory: operation, distinction, form and observer. The basic operation of social systems is communication. One of Luhmann's many challenging theses is that the sociologist primarily is an observer of observations; another is that social systems operate as autopoietic systems, i. e. as operatively closed, but cognitively open systems. The result of Luhmann's further development of systems theory is a sociological theory with few similarities to Parsons' systems theory. The theory of society comprises of four main parts: the theory of communication media, of evolution, of differentiation and of society's self-description. The most important medium in the communication system is language. Besides language, there are specific media especially in modern society, such as money, power, law, truth, love, etc., which are called symbolic generalized communication media. I outline the forms of society which have evolved in history. Modern society, which is charachterized by functional differentiation, is the main focus. According to the theory of differentiation, the systems of economy, politics, law, science, the family system, etc., operate as function systems in the system of society. In the approach of systems theory, it can be observed how the different systems function - or do not function. The functional systems operate, on one side, as operative closed systems autonomous of each other. On the other side, they operate as parts of the system of society, and thus as communication systems are structurally coupled to each other in specific ways. One effect of functional differentiation is thus functional autonomisation, which generates growing problems for the society as a whole. A challenge for sociological theory is how to communicate about these issues in the different systems of society. Today, it can be observed that modern society stands before two increasing global problems which are tied to the relationship between the social system and its environment. One is the fatal risk that the difference between inclusion and exclusion, or being in or out of the functional systems of society, becomes a meta-code which governs the survival opportunities for more and more people. The second main problem of society is the theme of the thesis? second part, namely the ecological problems. This section, then, comprises of a systems theoretical analysis of the ecological problems, thereby at the same time showing the relevance of systems theory in understanding a contemporary sociological issue. The analysis is carried out around three main theses: 1) Society can only relate and react to the environmental problem through communication; 2) Modern society is, to a high degree, dependent upon technology, and therefore, it is exposed to risks. Risks should be seen mainly not as contrary to security, but as a distinction between danger and risk; 3) Society is differentiated into function systems which operate independent of each other. This circumstance causes great difficulties in attempting to solve environmental problems. However, this insight is, as is shown, the only key to solutions. The author argues, in accordance with Luhmann, that the environmental issue makes more urgent not only the development of "environmental sociology", but rather first and foremost a general theory of society. The systems theoretical approach, above all, relates to the question of how society is possible, now and in the next century, in the face of increasing ecological environmental problems.
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