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.

Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and social system change

Modern, functionally differentiated society is not held together by moral consensus, shared values, or shared goals. Modern society is far too complex for that. Instead, modern global society is “held together,” or reproduced from moment to moment, by a division of labor on a large scale. That is to say, post-eighteenth-century global society has divided the labor of society into operationally autonomous social systems known as the economy, the law, politics, education, science, art, mass media, and healthcare. Just as an organization or business operates based on a division of labor, global society has created its own division of labor. Moreover, this division of labor was never actually planned by anyone—it has emerged through evolution—and it’s beyond the control of human beings, organizations, or governments.

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