Publication 7870

Bausch K. C. (2015) Luhmann’s social systems: Meaning, autopoiesis, and interpenetration. In: International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Second edition, Volume 14: 390–395. Fulltext at
The problem of double contingency and its accompanying parable of the black boxes informs Luhmann’s conception of meaning and frequently provides illustration at critical junctures. In life, (we) ‘psychic systems’ and (societies) ‘social systems’ are constantly faced with situations that require choices. Our meanings develop from those choices. Each choice that we make is an element of our meaning. Autopoiesis forms the background of Luhmann’s theory. Psychic and social autopoietic systems live by constantly maintaining their reproduction as a closed system. At the same time, they constantly interact with their environment by incorporating elements from it and releasing unneeded elements back into it. In this process, what remains the same is the reproductive process, which incorporates those elements that foster its life and evolution. Interpenetration describes how closed autopoietic systems come to share meaning and come to cooperatre and understand each other.

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