Although Niklas Luhmann refrains from an explicit treatment of power as a force of social constraint, I propose that, if partially reconstructed, his Systems Theory can illuminate the subject considerably. I show this by distinguishing between five elements in Luhmann's treatment of each of the following six social subsystems the economy, politics, law, science, religion and education. The five subsystem elements are 1 a binary code, 2 a basis of authority, 3 a language of social communication, 4 a generalized medium of communication, and 5 a social function. Whereas Luhmann assumes that each subsystem approximates autopoiesis, or selfcontained internal operation and autonomy, I assume the pervasiveness of interpenetration, whereby operations is one subsystem nonetheless affect operations in others. Subsequently, I juxtapose the reconstructed systemstheoretic framework developed in the first half of the paper with Michel Foucault's powerknowledge framework. I conclude that the use of a reconstructed systemstheoretic approach, based loosely on Luhmann's original theory, could greatly illuminate the specifics of powerknowledge in modern societies, to an even greater extent than Foucault does himself.
International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 1, 1996
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