There exists in systemic sociology a long-term contrast between the Luhmannian approach and the actor-centric critical theory (Habermas, Bourdieu). The former is politically moderate, and it rejects humanism’s anthropocentric picture of society. The latter, in turn, is closely linked with modern Western humanist culture and its democratic ideals. When analyzing the contrast between these two approaches the article pays particular attention to their art-theoretical views, chiefly because the contrast in question manifests itself clearly in those views. However, the latter half of the article demonstrates that this contrast is not entirely insuperable. When Luhmann’s works are interpreted freely and against his own interpretations, certain gaps between him and the critical tradition can be overcome. In this way, systemic sociology can utilize both of these prominent approaches in an analysis of contemporary culture and society, even if in terms of literal interpretation they often are mutually exclusive.
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