Niklas Luhmann's Social Systems Theory

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SOCIAL SYSTEMS THEORY Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998), a twentieth century German sociological theorist is credited with founding the Systems Theory in sociology. The theory is a variation of the General Systems Theory (GST). The GST is a strategy of inquiry that integrates diverse areas of theory and research like phenomenology and interactionism with functionalism, conflict theory and many other perspectives. The GST has developed across a variety of sciences with the hope of dealing with a problem common to them all, the scientific treatment of an organised complexity. It is therefore seen as a paradigm shift applicable to the sciences (Ball, 1978). The role of Niklas Luhmann in the development of the systems theory in sociology is aptly illustrated…show more content…
The concept was originally developed by two Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela from the Greek words autos meaning self, and poiein meaning to produce. This was in their attempt to explain life and what distinguishes the living from the non-living. They arrived at the conclusion that the living reproduces itself while the non-living does not. Example is the production of proteins and lipids by cells that use them. Hence, the living system is autopoietic (Seidl, 2004). Thus, autopoiesis means self-reproduction and autopoietic systems are systems that are…show more content…
The living system has life as its basic element, the psychic system has consciousness as its basic element, while the social system has communication as its basic element. As explained by Seidl (2004), there are three levels to the hierarchy of systems. The first level is the general autopoietic systems. The second level (living, psychic and social systems stratum) is the types of autopoietic systems constituting different areas of research. The biological sciences are concerned with the living systems, while the psychologists are interested in the study of consciousness of the psychic system and lastly the sociologists are concerned with the social system. The social system which is the concern of sociology is further classified into three: interactions, organisations and societies. The diagram below illustrates the above
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