Structural Coupling: Conflicts and Co-Evolution Between Religious Animal Release and Ecological Risk

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Hsiao-Mei JUAN, National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan
This essay examines the animal release in Taiwanese Buddhism and the dissents it faces mainly from the environmental or animal protection groups. According to the German sociologist, Niklas Luhmann, these two fronts are regarded as separately closed social systems, operating religious and ecological communications respectively. They produce autonomously their own elements of which they consist. The relationship between the religious and ecological systems can be described as a “structural coupling”. In such a coupling, each system takes critics, dissents and conflicts from outside seriously, but their interplay is not casually determined. Related systems experience dissents as irritations and undergo a process of inter-translation.

This essay first introduces the concepts of autonomous self-organization of social systems and structural coupling in light of Luhmann’s theory. Luhmann’s theory offers an interesting frame to examine empirically the interplay of animal release in Taiwanese Buddhism and the ecological risks it may cause. This seems to be a promising way to explain how a system thematizes the irritations from outside as its own problem and offers only solutions with which it can connect internally, avoiding the presumption of a pre-given consensus and line-determination.