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Theory of Society, Volume 1 (Cultural Memory in the Present)


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This first volume of Niklas Luhmann's two-part final work was initially published in German in 1997. The culmination of his thirty-year theoretical project to reconceptualize sociology, it offers a comprehensive description of modern society on a scale not attempted since Talcott Parsons. Beginning with an account of the fluidity of meaning and the accordingly high improbability of successful communication, Luhmann analyzes a range of communicative media, including language, writing, the printing press, and electronic media as well as "success media," such as money, power, truth, and love, all of which structure this fluidity and make communication possible. An investigation into the ways in which social systems produce and reproduce themselves, the book asks what gives rise to functionally differentiated social systems, how they evolve, and how social movements, organizations, and patterns of interaction emerge. The advent of the computer and its networks, which trigger potentially far-reaching processes of restructuring, receive particular attention. A concluding chapter on the semantics of modern society's self-description bids farewell to the outdated theoretical approaches of "old Europe," that is, to ontological, holistic, ethical, and critical interpretations of society, and argues that concepts such as "the nation," "the subject," and "postmodernity" are vastly overrated. In their stead, "society"—long considered a suspicious term by sociologists, one open to all kinds of reification—is defined in purely operational terms. It is the always uncertain answer to the question of what comes next in all areas of communication.


This book offers a complex theory of modern society that simultaneously considers issues of communication, the media, differentiation, and evolution.

About the Author

Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998), Professor of Sociology at the University of Bielefeld, was one of the most eminent social theorists of the last decades of the twentieth century. Stanford University Press has published a number of his books in English: Social Systems (1995), Observations on Modernity (1998), Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy (1998), Art as a Social System (2000), The Reality of the Mass Media (2000), Theories of Distinction: Redescribing the Descriptions of Modernity (2002), and A Systems Theory of Religion (2012).

Product Details

Luhmann, Niklas
Stanford University Press
Bal, Mieke
Rhodes Barrett
Vries, Hent De
Barrett, Rhodes
de Vries, Hent
Niklas Luhmann
Sociology - General
Edition Description:
Cultural Memory in the Present
Publication Date:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Sociology » General

Theory of Society, Volume 1 (Cultural Memory in the Present) New Hardcover
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Product details 488 pages Stanford University Press - English 9780804739498 Reviews:
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This book offers a complex theory of modern society that simultaneously considers issues of communication, the media, differentiation, and evolution.
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