» » Introduction to Systems Theory

Download Introduction to Systems Theory epub

by Peter Gilgen,Niklas Luhmann

Niklas Luhmann ranks as one of the most important sociologistsand social theorists of the twentieth century. Through his manybooks he developed a highly original form of systems theory thathas been hugely influential in a wide variety of disciplines.

In Introduction to Systems Theory, Luhmann explains thekey ideas of general and sociological systems theory and supplies awealth of examples to illustrate his approach. The book offers awide range of concepts and theorems that can be applied to politicsand the economy, religion and science, art and education,organization and the family. Moreover, Luhmann’s ideasaddress important contemporary issues in such diverse fields ascognitive science, ecology, and the study of social movements.

This book provides all the necessary resources for readers towork through the foundations of systems theory – no otherwork by Luhmann is as clear and accessible as this. There is alsomuch here that will be of great interest to more advanced scholarsand practitioners in sociology and the social sciences.

Download Introduction to Systems Theory epub
ISBN: 0745645720
ISBN13: 978-0745645728
Category: Other
Subcategory: Social Sciences
Author: Peter Gilgen,Niklas Luhmann
Language: English
Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (December 10, 2012)
Pages: 300 pages
ePUB size: 1434 kb
FB2 size: 1991 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 470
Other Formats: doc docx rtf lit

This review is mostly a comment I left on the 1 star review for the work. I thought that I should add it as a review, because I loved this book as an introduction to systems theory.

If you are interested in systems, this is a great place to start. Luhmann walks through the processes topic by topic. Yes, he is not the most exciting person to read, but if you know that before you start then you'll be prepared with the patience necessary for understanding the concepts. The book is the transcript of a class that Luhmann taught in 1992 so Luhmann's voice is more conversational and clear than one might expect. He also has a very good sense of humor throughout the work...though his humor is slight, it is loaded with irony--this is something that I loved about the book because I kept forgetting that he might make a joke or light-hearted comment and they kept creeping up.

Luhmann presents in the first section of the book--particularly lecture 4 and 5--a thorough, clear, and detailed account of his view of systems theory. While Luhmann does say things that may be hard to concretely grasp upon the initial encounters such as, "a system is defined by a boundary between itself and its environment," he qualifies such statements at length and reveals the subtly necessary in understanding the complexity of a system. It is not that Luhmann is trying to make his theory of systems as vague as possible in order to successfully create a "theory of everything", but that what he is saying is complicated and has to be explained from multiple angles in order to be properly taught and properly understood.
His two lectures on Time and Meaning are both very impressive as well. The way he spells out how systems are a way of reducing complexity immediately shifted my perspective in how I can view the things, actions, and social relationships in the world.
Reductive accounts of systems and their emergent qualities may be more satisfactory to a casual reader, but an approach is misguided from its origins, and Luhmann recognizes this: systems are made of multifaceted relationships that rely on their historical development, making it impossible to separate components without losing information about their purpose, function, or relationships to other systems. Much like it is impossible to satisfactorily describe a work of art to someone blind, fully recounting complexity and the processes of emergence would involve embodying the process itself. ...This might be why the epigraph to his Theory of Society is a quote that says, "that which cannot be conceived through anything else must be conceived through itself."

Attached at the end of the work is a helpful list of suggested readings based on the lecture topics.

Other good introductions to Luhmann's work are Moeller's short "The Radical Luhmann" or maybe Luhmann's own "The Reality of the Mass Media"

Niklas Luhmann ranks with Peter Checkland, Russell Ackoff, Stafford Beer, and Ross Ashby in his ability to clearly address the concepts that underlie the study of systems. This book is a MUST for the serious systems practitioner and addresses the philosophical underpinnings for systems.
There's a reason why Luhmann is listed as a head in the field--great read, but perhaps not great for introductory readers.
This is the clearest exposition of Luhman's core notions of system thinking, including those books designed to explain him. Far more accessible than Social Systems.
Luhmann has become a cult figure of modern sociology, but there's good reason to be skeptical. If you read the first couple pages of this book, you'll see Luhmann being wordy and vague, speaking in endless abstractions. He mentions Weber, Simmel, and Durkheim, but they were masters of the concrete next to Luhmann, who generally dispenses with such vulgar things as evidence and examples. When others try to apply his ideas to concrete examples, the results tend to be unoriginal and banal: systems are incommensurable, they're autonomous, they're depersonalized, etc etc.

Abstraction can be compelling; I don't hate on Hegel or Husserl or Habermas because beneath the obfuscation there's a reasonably coherent system of thought. But that's not true in Luhmann's case. The best example: Luhmann literally does not define what a "system" is without begging the question. Neither do his fans. I'm not exaggerating. Instead you get circular definitions like "A system is defined by a boundary between itself and its environment, dividing it from an infinitely complex exterior"--in other words, a system consists of everything that's part of that system. Here's another one: "The concept of system refers to something that is in reality a system and thereby incurs the responsibility of testing its statements against reality." I find it really depressing that such statements pass for logical thought.

Since systems are autonomous, sealed-off entities, you would think Luhmann would be pretty precise about how to draw the boundaries. But nowhere will you find any way to ascertain why he calls something (law, culture, the body, the brain) a system. Well, I assume not *everything* is a system, or else Luhmann would be claiming to have an overarching theory of everything. So it seems that a system is whatever Luhmann and his followers say one is--even if they can't say why. That sort of rhetorical powerplay makes systems theory an intellectual cult.

But see for yourself: read a bit of Luhmann, then read a book of Simmel. Simmel's ideas, even when abstract, are easily grasped and fit together. Luhmann's evaporate into vapid gibberish.

ADDENDUM: Since certain people are accusing me of not having read the whole book, I will say explicitly that yes, I have read the whole book. The "system as difference" definition is no more tenable than the definitions above. Luhmann's defenders would rather accuse me of ignorance than engage in intellectual debate. They are invested in Luhmann, and I can't convince them otherwise. But to those who are undecided or harbor doubts: don't believe the hype.