Systems Theory and Postmodernism

Luhmann questions the very concept of postmodernism, arguing that the term was appropriated from architecture and applied as a generalized description of a society that lacks a meta-narrative. In other words, we are said to be living in post-modernity because society no longer has a meta-narrative. So the theory rests on a lack. Presumably, modern and premodern societies had coherent narratives (along with shared values) that created a sense of consensus or at least a basis for discipline. But in a globalized, decentralized society, there is no authority to inculcate or enforce a single, hegemonic narrative. Nor are there any actual leaders, heroes, or role models. Thus, the argument goes, we are living in a postmodern age. Cultures now meet and clash, and no culture can think of itself as the only culture or consider its way of life the only way of life. Cultural narratives are always contingent–they could have been different than they are (and they don’t have to exist at all).

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