Europa - Universität Flensburg
Panel Discussion I
Impulse Topic: Competing Identities and Dirty Distinctions
When the systems theoretician and sociologist Niklas Luhmann first started referring to the Laws of Form in the beginning of the eighties, it was a mere addition to his already well-developed concept of distinctions and selections. His main theoretical oeuvre Soziale Systeme from 1984, did not take the implications of LoF seriously. Only from the late eighties did his selective reading of LoF emerge as a powerful theoretical device for reconstruction of his own systems theory, especially in connection with Fritz Heiders early medium theory.
Although his late masterpiece Theory of Society from 1997 did take LoF seriously, Luhmanns health had degraded too far and was aware, that the needed final conversion of his theory to adhere to the Laws of Form, would rest on the shoulders of future generations. Dirk Baecker, Steffen Roth and others have taken the challenge up. Their goal has been to describe and analyse the coherency of society and the theoretical structure.
This presentation parts from their propositions and instead observes on the power of incoherent forms, invalid operations and illegal distinctions. According to Luhmannian theory, such operations were regarded as dangerous and productive paradoxes alike, and had to be subdued and invisibilized, as they otherwise would bring societal operations to a stalemate. This, I argue, is a reflex by Luhmann, stemming from the wish for an orderly society and universe in his theory; instead, the dirty distinctions of society are far more than paradoxes in need of invisibilization. Dirty distinctions are necessary and congruent forms of social operations, compatible with Luhmannian theory. What is more uncertain, is the coherence with the strict proctologic of Spencer-Brown in his Laws of Form.
Lars Clausen is doctoral candidate at the Europa - Universität Flensburg, Germany and consultant at the UCL University College, Denmark.
His main interest is in the scholastic legacy present in Luhmannian systems theory and Laws of Form.