Call for papers to the Luhmann Conference 2020 on “Moral communication. Observed with social systems theory”

Place: Inter-University Centre (IUC), Dubrovnik, Croatia
Address: Don Frana Bulicá 4, 20000 Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dates: 15-18 September 2020

The PDF version of this CFP is available for download here.

Theme: The conference committee invites contributions on the significance of moral communication in Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory. As readers familiar with his work will recognise, Luhmann’s approach to morality is characterised by a profound moral scepticism and a certain neglect of moral communication not only as an occasional topic, but also as a distinct form of communication. As contemporary society is continuously producing moral communication, however, social systems theory is bound to adequately deal with this phenomenon if its claim to a universal theory is to be maintained. We therefore welcome contributions from scholars with an interest in moral communication at all levels of society.

The conference series has always been characterised by fruitful interactions of scholars with diverse paradigmatic and empirical backgrounds in disciplinary fields as different as political science, aesthetics, sociology, theology, history, economics, health, psychology, ecology, education, and organization studies.

Social systems theory is empirically open to new semantics, different codes, and multiple levels of analysis. Presentations could therefore focus, for example, on how the medium of morality emerges from situations of double contingency and/or in everyday communication; how the moral code of good/bad informs decision-making; how complexity is reduced and increased by morally coded communication; the paradoxes that emerge and unfold in conjunction with moral coding; the relationship between moral coding and computer coding (#computerethics #ethicsofartificialintelligence); the relation between ethics and morality; etc.

Figure 1: Ceci n’est pas une mouche. Organization observed in the medium of alternatives (left) and in the medium of values (right) [Roth S. (2017), p. 136].

Figure 1: Ceci n’est pas une mouche. Organization observed in the medium of alternatives (left) and in the medium of values (right) [Roth S. (2017), p. 136].

The conference invites presentations of both conceptual work and empirical studies. Contributions are welcome that either build on the work of Niklas Luhmann or compare or combine social system theory with other theories, thus further developing systems theory by including thoughts from other traditions (e.g. Foucault, Bourdieu, Deleuze, discourse analysis, critical theory, critical management studies, posthumanism, etc).

Abstracts of 400–800 words should be sent to the corresponding convenors* by June 15, 2020. Full papers should be circulated prior to the conference.

Corresponding convenors:

  • Gorm Harste, Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Markus Heidingsfelder, Xiamen University Malaysia
  • Klaus Laursen, Aarhus University, Denmark*
  • Steffen Roth, La Rochelle Business School, France, and Kazimieras Simonavičius University, Lithuania*
  • Krešimir Žažar, University of Zagreb, Croatia*

Background literature:

Background information:

Social Systems theory after Luhmann

Systems theory has had a tremendous impact in social science since the 1950s. During the last decades, however, systems theory has been completely transformed. In particular, German sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s system theory has transformed social studies. Luhmann’s “Grand Theory” got its final form with his principal work Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft 1-2 in 1997 (engl.: Theory of Society Vol. 1-2, Stanford University Press, 2013), although additional books, articles and interviews have been published, including more than twenty books now in English. Whatever one thinks about the exact form of his analysis, sociological theory has to some extent been transformed by this “Luhmann effect”.

Although Luhmann’s general theory hitherto has seemed very abstract and distant, there is a strong drive towards analyses in empirical studies that make use of Luhmann’s insights. This is evident in his seminal publication Theory of Society. Luhmann’s systems theory is more an abductive applied theory than a deductively developed theory. Yet it seems that its very abstract character has a fruitful effect.