Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) was a German sociologist and system
theorist who wrote on law, economics, politics, art, religion,
ecology, mass media, and love. Luhmann advocated a radical
constructivism and antihumanism, or "grand theory," to explain
society within a universal theoretical framework. Nevertheless,
despite being an iconoclast, Luhmann is viewed as a political
conservative. Hans-Georg Moeller challenges this legacy,
repositioning Luhmann as an explosive thinker critical of Western
Moeller focuses on Luhmann's shift from philosophy to theory,
which introduced new perspectives on the contemporary world. For
centuries, the task of philosophy meant transforming contingency
into necessity, in the sense that philosophy enabled an
understanding of the necessity of everything that appeared
contingent. Luhmann pursued the opposite -- the transformation of
necessity into contingency. Boldly breaking with the heritage of
Western thought, Luhmann denied the central role of humans in
social theory, particularly the possibility of autonomous agency.
In this way, after Copernicus's cosmological, Darwin's biological,
and Freud's psychological deconstructions of anthropocentrism, he
added a sociological "fourth insult" to human vanity.
A theoretical shift toward complex system-environment relations
helped Luhmann "accidentally" solve one of Western philosophy's
primary problems: mind-body dualism. By pulling communication into
the mix, Luhmann rendered the Platonic dualist heritage obsolete.
Moeller's clarity opens such formulations to general understanding
and directly relates Luhmannian theory to contemporary social
issues. He also captures for the first time a Luhmannian attitude
toward society and life, defined through the cultivation of
modesty, irony, and equanimity.
Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science
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