Luhmann’s Sceptical Approach to the Globalisation Cultural Processes

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Gianugo COSSI, University of Udine, Italy

Luhmann’s sceptical approach to the globalisation cultural processes

Luhmann developed his thinking in the work Global Theory. In this sense, he believed that functional-structuralism had universal relevance, and was therefore global. Global Theory meant, and means, taking into account the entire social complex and not only fragments. Luhmann therefore treats the overall phenomenon of globalisation in his theory, or better, a series of narratives that were contemporary in his days, centred on the combination of processes that define that series.

According to Luhmann, around 1995, it was possible to speak about globalisation when moving towards the affirmation of a single sub-system for each functional environment on a planetary scale. If the definition, sui generis, suggests that there is a single (complex) economic sub-system on a planetary scale, this does not imply for the master of Bielefeld (as one might think in common sense) a simplification of the codes utilised. In other terms, the unification of economic organisations does not constitute a decisive central element of socio-cultural simplification.

In conclusion, for Luhmann, globalisation achieves something completely different than the mere domination of markets; given that the process of unification of functional codes presents other aspects. The processes of globalisation, while projecting onto a planetary scale, are reinforced through specialisation, which implies the inter-dependence (even if relative) of single codes. In the framework presented thusly, the mass media, which might be considered other systems, increased the functional autonomy of their codes during the 1990s. Through these, the social function of the global world media does not serve to direct the self-observation of the social system (said differently, self-description) but rather to divide stil more than in the past the global world into sub-systems of communication and environments.