Saturday, May 12, 2012

Autopoiesis and Structure in Social Systems Theory

“The following considerations assume that there are systems.”
Niklas Luhmann emphasizes it in Social Systems

As usual, the class started with a dialogue for discussing and reviewing the previous class and assignments.

Prof Takashi Iba repeated that the social itself is not able to be taken apart into any element, because the system is made up with communication.

Communication consists of three parts, system, operation and element.
This is key to understand the today’s central themes, “Autopoiesis and Structure”

Prof. Iba introduces three different formations of an autopoietic system:
1. Element as Momentary Event
2. Boundary Reproduction of the System
3. Element Constitution based on the System

First of all, elements are momentary events having no duration, and they disappear as soon as they are realized. Therefore, the system must produce the elements consecutively in order to keep the system exist.

Secondly, boundary of the system is determined by the operations, and the inside of the boundary is called “system.” Thus, each autopoietic system is operationally closed.

Thirdly, elements are constituted based on the ongoing system, and a system consists of momentary events. As a result, autopoietic systems are defined in a circular fashion.

Prof. Iba brought the second point, which was there are systems, but they can be narrowed down to: there are self-referential systems.

“What is the difference between autopoiesis and self-referential?”
That was the critical question the students came up with.

Prof. Iba explained with N. Luhmann quotes from Social Systems.”
Additionally, he mentioned that autopoiesis is more related to time passage, so it is more dynamic than self-reference. On the other hand, self-reference continues in systems beside time or duration.

At the end of class, students had a pair discussion about what autopoietic systems are. They seemed to struggle to answer it since autopoiesis is too abstract.

Later, we are going to have an opportunity to understand the social systems more deeply with concrete examples related to our lives and recent society.

N. Luhmann, Social Systems, Stanford University Press, 1996

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