Systems Theory and Governing: Towards a Sociological Theory of Societal Efforts

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Toru TAKAHASHI, Chuo University, Japan
Our societies are faced with various and numerous challenges at local, national, supranational and global levels. A multitude of actors with a variety of skills are tackling these challenges at each level. Actors from any functional domains (such as scientists, jurists, artists etc.) can contribute to such efforts with their expertise. And they often organize borderless networks of collaborations that expand across these levels. This situation even undermines the theoretical importance of spatial distinctions such as local/ global. This paper uses the adjective “societal” as connoting a horizon of social order which encompasses every spatial level and functional domain. So, societal efforts include from local practice of civic volunteers to multifunctional practice, which mobilizes a variety of expertise, through borderless networks.

Jan Kooiman’s “sociocybernetic” theory of governance provides us a set of technical terms to describe societal efforts. He formulates people’s practice to achieve common goals as “governing”. How can sociological theory, especially social systems theory, formulate societal governing from its own perspectives? Niklas Luhmann prepares a specified category for protest movements (social movements) as one of four types of autopoietic social systems. However, while actors of movements and resolvers of targeted problems are often separated in protest movements (for instance, civic protesters and government), actors in societal efforts are trying to be resolvers. Despite the difference between nature of protest movements and societal efforts, Luhmann’s theory of protest movements can be a good starting ground to elaborate the concept of societal efforts from a perspective of sociological theory.