Publication 6436

Beavis A. K. (1999) Observing educational administrators: Paradoxical reflections. Journal of Educational Administration 37(1): 8–22.
Self‐referential reflection inevitably reveals paradox. For some, paradox is a fruitful metaphor; for me, it raises problems that have epistemological implications. Traditionally paradox has been avoided by the problematic means of removing the observer from the domain of observation. Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic social systems offers an alternative manner of dealing with paradox. Such systems observe the self‐reference resulting from including an observer within the domain of observation and in their recursively closed operations combine other‐reference with every self‐reference. In this way, paradox is able to be “unfolded” in the operational moment. Luhmann’s social systems require, however, a radically different view of the place of the individual in society from that of traditional social theory – he or she does not belong! Communications are the elementary units for the social processing of meaning. This requires a radical revision of our concept of communication: it is communication that reproduces communication, not individuals.
Key words: , systems theory
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