Convergences of General System Theory, Critical Realism and Theory of Society

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Wolfgang HOFKIRCHNER, vienna university of technology, Austria, bertalanffy center for the study of systems science, Austria
This paper discusses philosophical, that is, praxiological, ontological and epistemological foundations of a theory of social systems. In particular, it addresses the confluence of critical thinking and systems thinking – of Critical Theory and Systems Philosophy – in the context of social theory. Critical Theory has its origins in the Frankfurt School going back to Marx and has developed since into a variety of different approaches. Systems Philosophy is considered as having its origins in Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s General System Theory. It has been developing in the discourse about Evolutionary Systems and Complexity Thinking.

A special focus is given to the post-Luhmannian attempts to reframe the social (Wan 2011). They show a striking affinity of two strands: Critical Realism, on the one hand, that is grounded in some Marxian assumptions and dialectical logic, and Emergentist Systemism, on the other, as the gist of Systems Philosophy so far (Hofkirchner 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016).

In the light of those convergences, also some Luhmannian topoi can be revisited and interpreted so as to fit a more coherent social theory.


Wolfgang Hofkirchner (2013) Self-Organisation as the Mechanism of Development and Evolution in Social Systems. In: Archer, M. S. (ed.), Social Morphogenesis, Springer, Dordrecht, 125-143

Wolfgang Hofkirchner (2014) On the Validity of Describing ‘Morphogenic Society’ as a System and Justifiability of Thinking About It as a Social Formation. In: Archer, M. S. (ed.), Late Modernity, Springer, Dordrecht, 119-141

Wolfgang Hofkirchner (2015) “Mechanisms” at Work in the Information Society. In: Archer, M. S. (ed.), Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order, Springer, Dordrecht, 95-112

Wolfgang Hofkirchner (2016) Ethics from Systems: Origin, Development and Current State of Normativity. In: Archer, M. S. (ed.), Morphogenesis and Normativity, Springer, Dordrecht, 239-253 (in print)

Poe Yu-Ze Wan (2011) Reframing the Social: Emergentist Systemism and Social Theory. Ashgate, Surrey