CASMIR: Here's the question: You questioned the applicability of Luhmann's notion of
open autopoetic systems to the social sphere saying: “The relation of
social systems with autopoiesis does not seem to work.” However, here you
are endorsing the claim that “Luhmann is providing a necessary theory for
the future of sociology.” What exactly is necessary and what should be
From this original post:
General Systems Theory
The production and reproduction of increasingly complex ordered systems seem to require a special explanation given the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy). Why is that so (you can draw here on this week reading as well as previous readings if they are helpful)?
The law of thermodynamics presupposes a closed system. It imagines the universe as a closed system which allows nothing to escape or be introduced into it. The production and reproduction of the complex ordered systems require a special explanation because the one provided by laws of entropy does not apply to the world's conditions. The systems assumed by the laws of entropy cannot be found in the world, especially when it comes to social, living and psychic systems. The special explanation is based on the open system which explains why entropy never occurs in them as well as why order is created. Openness in a system means that the system exchanges things with the environment. However, the exchange is different depending on the type of system, that is, psychic systems, social systems, organic systems or even biological systems.
Luhmann offers an explanation based on the idea of an open system. What is this explanation? Do you think it works? Why or why not?
Luhmann uses the concept of autopoiesis which posits that different aspects of a system interact in a certain way to produce and reproduce the aspects of a system. In simple terms, autopoiesis is self-reproduction. Autopoietic systems are open systems because they are in contact with their environment (Guy, 2013). For instance, living cells rely on the exchange of matter and energy without which they die. However, the contact with their environment is governed by the autopoietic system which determines, what, when and via what channels matter and energy are sent to the environment. Luhmann also applies autopoiesis definition to social systems. The relation of social systems with autopoiesis does not seem to work. The concept of production and reproduction cannot be applied to humans who are key players in the social system because the system does not produce them.
Guy, J. S. (2013). Niklas Luhmann, Introduction to Systems Theory. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 38(3), 421-423.