Review Essay: Controlled Openness

Andreas Wenninger


The book reviewed here contains a written form of Niklas LUHMANN’s last lecture, delivered in winter term 1992/1993 at Bielefeld University, where he was professor for sociology from 1968 to 1993. A more comprehensive and systematic publication titled "Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft" was not published until 1997. In comparison to this and to other publications the present one provides an insight into the modality of the theoretical practice of LUHMANN. My review-essay follows up that point and reminds us that LUHMANN worked out his theory of society in view of a sociological problem he had conceived. He accused sociology of accumulating knowledge in a confusing way by empirical social research. His endeavour, in contrast, was to enable research within a consistent theoretical frame that was nevertheless open to expansive explorations. LUHMANN tries to achieve consistency through the reciprocal adjustment of his terms and his theoretical components, which should enable the construction of problems for comparison within global society. This means that his approach stays open for an empirical reality that remains to be explored because the theory of society does not deliver terms to categorize empirical reality. Instead, terms are conceptualized as distinctions with the function to construct problems that instruct observations and make them amenable to theorization.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0803237


sociology; systems theory; theory of society; methodology; qualitative social research

Copyright (c) 2008 Andreas Wenninger

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