Distinction and Indication

Spencer Brown’s mark consists of a vertical line that separates two side, and a horizontal line that points to one side and not the other, and could thus be called an indicator or pointer. The mark is consciously thought of as one sign but it consists of two components. However, if we start out in this manner, a question arises: who could designate one but not the other component without already having a sign for this particular purpose at this disposal? Thus, we must first of all simply accept the mark as a unified mark. . . .

Open and closed systems

Structurally closed systems exist only conceptually or analytically; however, operationally closed systems exist in reality—or more precisely, they are observable. Social systems (and other autopoietic systems) are structurally open and operationally closed.

The pandemic and the myth of balance

The preoccupation with balance belongs to an older form of society–one based on hierarchy and centralized control. Autopoietic systems never reach a condition of equilibrium. There is never balance between system and environment, but systems can still be relatively stable over the long term. Stable systems do not need to be in equilibrium. A physical structure like a table can be balanced, but living, evolving systems cannot be balanced.

Luhmann and Matter

When discussing organizations, which Luhmann argues consist entirely of decision-based communication, one might ask about buildings, desks, chairs, telephones, computers, electricity, as well as human beings. Aren’t these things essential to most organizations? Shut off the electricity or the Internet access and most organizations stop functioning. Thus, a common criticism of social systems theory relates to materialism or material agency.

1 2