Niklas Luhmann's Social Systems

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The newer systems theory of Niklas Luhmann ("theory of social systems") views organizations as complex social systems that reproduce through decisions. A central element of this theory is the autopoiesis of systems - this is, self-reproduction of the elements of a system by the elements of the system. Luhmann derived the originally biological concept of autopoiesis by Maturana and Varela to a general concept applicable to two additional types of autopoietic systems: social systems and psychic systems. Here social systems reproduce themselves through their communications, which are elements of meaning. Besides, there are three types of social systems: societies, organisations and interactions between people (see Figure 3 2). Figure 3 2 Types…show more content…
As an “organisation exists only as long as its autopoiesis continues and decisions are reproduced from decisions” (Luhmann, 2003, p. 34). Hence, the social systems approach is more suitable to understand how SEOs manage internally the competing logics. The creation of the communication decisions is a matter of structural decisions or decision premises. Luhmann conceptualises social structures as expectations (Luhmann 1995a). In every situation certain communications are expected and not others. Expected premises for decision-making are valid for more than one decision. On the basis of the systems theory we define organisations (complex social systems) with the following characteristics (Luhmann, 2003, Chapter 3; Boos & Mitterer, 2014, p. 25): • There is no objective reality. Reality is created by the own standards and design principles of the system. • The basic element of organizations are not people, but the communication of decisions. • They exist as long as they make decisions (i.e. reproduce themselves). • The decisions separate systems from their environment, which allows the survival of the organisation. • An organisation and its environment are inseparable and connected with each other. There is no organisation without its
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