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2010 - Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies Words: 329 words || 
1. Schütz, Anton. "Good Times, Hard Times, Crisis Times: Historical Potentials of Niklas Luhmann’s Theory of Social Autopoiesis" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies, Grand Plaza, Montreal, Canada, <Not Available>. 2019-04-23 <>
Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Transcendental philosophy flourishes under the prosperous reign of Frederick the Great in small, then Prussian Königsberg. Two centuries later, systems theory unfolds in Eastern Westphalia’s proverbially provincial Bielefeld under the last effects of post-WWII ‘economic miracle’. And yet, just like Kant, Luhmann’s autopoietic account of modern society takes up the Ant’s point of view, not that of the Cicada. Rejecting the aspiration-led ways of world-making celebrated in Luhmann’s contemporary Frankfurt (as in Kant’s contemporary Berlin), it replaces a rhetoric of promise for a discipline of taking-into-account. Poet Gottfried Benn’s motto “Erkenne die Lage!/Acknowledge the situation!” aptly summarizes this preference.

The task of thinking modern society – and not just economy/ecology – in terms of household and sustainability requires Luhmann to claim (against kantians, hegelians, marxists and the entire consensus of political philosophy) that the world of morals and politics as we know them is a world we have lost beyond recovery; that the function of ethics has shrunk to the duty of ‘warning against morals’; that modern society finds its ultimate reality not in shared values but in the simultaneous co-occurrence of numberless communications; that society results not from consensus maintenance but from communicative events giving rise to further communicative events.

Since Luhmann’s death (1998), the world of world society has changed dramatically. In the West, the turbulent contraction of margins of possibilities has cast the spell crisis on a growing number of issues, and spread a veil of ignorance over the fine line separating use and abuse. Jean de la Fontaine’s fable’s talented singer, the Cicada, has fallen into its winter silence. What has the Ant ‘social autopoiesis’ to suggest in these new conditions? I shall outline some of the challenges that program the upcoming redistribution of responsibilities between ‘politics’ and ‘society’: a rationality of codes, programs that cannot but imperil the values and doctrines of individual entitlement; a depoliticised concept of society; a citizen-individual deprived of her tenure as the ultimate constituent of social reality.

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