How Can Social Systems Observe?: Toward an Elaboration of Sociological Systems Theory

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: Booth 47
Oral Presentation
Saburo AKAHORI , Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, Japan
Nonetheless the term “social system” has been a typical technical term of sociology, it has not been understood properly even in the circle of sociologists. For example, usually we cannot distinguish between social systems and societal system(s). This paper explores what kind of upgrade is needed to elaborate the concept of social systems in the context of sociology with reference to the rise of social media.

There are several reasons why the concept of “system” is introduced in sociology. Among them, we pay attention to the definition of social system as an observer, or the definition of the social as an observing system, in Niklas Luhmann’s theory. Even though the definition of the system as an observer is not derived from the tradition of sociology, we can safely say that it is sociologically important because the expression “social systems observe” is almost equivalent to the frequently used expression “realities are socially constructed”. By using systems approach, we will be able to define precisely what is meant by the term “social” in such context.

In Luhmann’s theory the component of social systems is not defined as action, but as communication or communicative event. However we consider the definition of observation, the unity of distinction and indication, is not satisfactory to define social system (i.e. system of communicative elements) as a particular kind of observer. We insist that the definition of social systems should imply duration or continuity of observation as with the other observing systems. At last we conclude that, especially in the era of social media, we should distinguish between “the social (i.e. communication) as an element of social systems” and “social systems (i.e. system of communicative elements)”.