Luhmann and the Constructivist Heritage, A Critical Reflection

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Luhmann´s theory of autopoietic social systems is increasingly receiving attention in the scholarly dispute about constructivism. > Problem . The paper explores the transition from Kant´s "transcendental/empirical" to Luhmann´s "system/environment" distinction to provide a deepened understanding of Luhmann´s constructivist approach. > Method . Luhmann´s construction of reality via the system/environment distinction is discussed with respect to preceding concepts provided by philosophical and system/cybernetic scholars such as Kant, Husserl, Piaget, von Glasersfeld, von Foerster, and Maturana & Varela. The innovativeness of Luhmann´s approach is then critically evaluated. > Results . Luhmann´s contribution to constructivism is innovative only in the context of his stringent theory architecture of autopoietic meaning-based systems. > Implications . The text is a contribution to the positioning of this approach as part of the philosophical and systems/cybernetics constructivist heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalConstructivist Foundations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Research Field

  • Former Research Field - Innovation Systems and Policy


  • Theory of social systems (TSS)
  • observation
  • autopoiesis
  • self-reference & hetero-reference
  • meaning.


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