Rethinking the Collapse of Reality to Live for: From a Perspective of Second-Order Observation

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 20:30
Oral Presentation
Saburo AKAHORI, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, Japan
Almost 10 years ago, a mass murder without a logical reason occurred in Tokyo. Following this, one of the most representative sociologists in Japan pointed out the “collapse of reality to live for” as a diagnosis of contemporary times. He also argued that recognition of “real other(s)” is needed as a prescription. However, what indicates a collapse and/or revival of reality?

What sociologists have to do is not to grieve over the loss of existing realities. Instead, we should focus on how the collapse of realities is described and distinguish between logical levels. Then, we move on to explore the mechanism of reality construction.

This paper tackles social construction of reality from the perspective of sociological systems theory. Social systems are redefined, according to Niklas Luhmann, as a kind of system that “observes” through producing communication over and over. In other words, social systems construct their own social realities. Based on such a theoretical apparatus, we approach “collapse and/or revival of reality to live for”.

Through examining case studies of Japan, we discuss that: (1) Radical change of contemporary society, especially individualization, rapid demographic change, and the so-called social media revolution, also radically changes social systems' reality construction. (2) Both collapse and revival are also socially constructed realities. (3) When social systems as “observers” cannot observe properly such radical change, they can only observe it as “collapse of reality”.

As for the designing of social systems, what we need is, not designing the contents of realities, but questioning how to design the paths of communication, or the circuit of reality construction. Then we conclude that, especially in Japan, the “collapse of reality” as a constructed reality is caused by the fallacy of social systems designing. What we have to analyze is a sensitivity of social systems as “observers”.