Call X a social system

If we follow the rules of classical logic, we can make a declarative statement that can proved true or false. The statement must be falsifiable. For example, we can say, “X is a social system.”  But we can also begin with an injunction: Call X a social system. The second statement is constructivist. It’s not an ontological claim.

To get more specific, we can say, “Call journalism a social system” or “Call the prison a social system.” The relevant question here is, If we carry out the injunction, what follows? We are more interested in what follows from an injunction than if a statement is true or false. If systems theory, as part of the science system, observes journalism or the prison system as a social system, what follows from that? This is an “If . . . then” formula. If journalism observes news, then systems theory can observe this observer.

Journalism makes a distinction, creating a two-side form. It can then indicate the inside or the outside of the form, though not both simultaneously. Communication on the inside of form makes a difference in public opinion.


Draw a distinction


Call it the first distinction.

Call the space in which it is drawn the space severed or cloven by the distinction.

Call the parts of the space shaped by the severance or cleft the sides of the distinction or, alternatively, the spaces, states, or content distinguished by the distinction.

–George Spencer-Brown


  1. Except that, in sociology, you act as a sexond-order oberver observing second-order observations autopoietically producing a social system. Which means that one of sociology’s main subject is to describe how first-order observers interested in matters stand being revalued by revalued by second-order observers looking at the contingency and complexity of their seemingly innocuous indications.


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