thoughts, shares, links, and the like…

[Discursive Analytical Strategies describes four different ontological strategies by Laclau (deconstruction), Foucault (discourse), Koselleck (semantic field) and Luhmann (system/environment). Here is the abstract of the Luhmann part. Luhmann did in 50 books, Andersen in 30 pages, I in 3 three pages (sic!). Page references is to the 2003 edition. Here is the Discursive Analytical Strategies – Niels Aakerstroem Andersen-text in OpenOffice-version as the format beneath is not that intuitive]


Analytical strategy (the epistemology) (from the introduction)

how will the epistemologist construct the observation of others?

Contrary to method, which is observation of an object, while analytical strategy is observation of the observation (alike ontology and epistemology)

Niels Aakerstroem Andersen describing Niklas Luhmanns system theory (page 63 to 93)

Social systems is autopoietic systems of communication consisting in and by communication.

System theory as second-order observation (the Spencer-Brownian Luhmann)

Form and difference

Viewing observations is the operation of creating distinctions (difference between smt and smt else)

(and what is observed is above all dependent on this distinction. (64))


Distinction is always two-sided; inner: the indication, the marked space (m)

Only one side is marked, as it is only one observation.

The unity of the distinction (inner and outer side) is defined as form

Second-order observations

first-order is observing the indication, second-order is observing the indication + blindspots (outer part of the distinction / the unmarked space)


The operation of observation also establishes distinction between self-reference and external reference.

First-order uses external reference as it is a system distinguishing smt in the environment.

Perspective is mono-contextual: uses distinction without being able to distinguish.

Second-order is self-referential as it observes the system itself

Perspective is poly-contextual: observer knows that

– she cannot see, that she cannot see

– reality depends on the observer

– the observed is contingent with the difference, that defines the boundaries of the observation

The system is auto-logical (not simply self-referential), as the perspective makes the system describe its object and itself, and the description modifies the object to be described.


All observations are within a distinction, but not all observations are second-order observations.

Three ways of making distinctions:

1) object: distinguishing smt from smt else, which is unspecified (horse/not-horse)

2) concept: indicating in a way that restricts the unmarked (man/woman)

3) second-order concepts: restrictive distinctions, which can be re-entered or re-enter themselves (gov/opposition)

A system is only able to observe itself if it is able to copy its guiding distinction and re-enter it into itself. (69) [rule of second-order observations]


First-order paradox: The observer cannot see the distinction on which her observation is based, and yet she can make dinstinctions.

Second-order: the fact that the distinction system/environment is, at the same time the same and not the same once the subsystem has seperated itself (copying the distinction and re-entering it) in order to observe the system as observer.

Conducting system-theoretical analysis

a system theorist must

account for and substantiate his choice of guiding distinctions

account for the conditioning of the chosen guiding distinction (conditions of the indication)

point out, substantiate and account for the implications of the exact observation point. (the moment one system has been selected as observation point, others become environment and is viewed through and determined by that system)

The concept of meaning

All systems are autopoietic, meaning that they themselves create the elements they consist of, including the the constitutive boundary between system and environment. (72)

Social systems create themselves through meaning and are unable to operate outside of meaning. Meaning is unfixable, unstable and indefinable. Meaning is a concept of difference.

Meaning is simply the distinction of actuality/potentiality. [based on Husserls phenomenology!]. Meaning is the link between the actual and the simultaneously presented possibilities.

The concept of communication

Social systems operate in terms of meaning in the shape of a closed connection of communication.

A communication is the synthesis of the selection of information, selection of form of message and the selection of understanding (a subsequent communication (therefore it requires at least two communications in order for a communication to exist (in this sense social systems arise in the recursivity of communication))).

All above shape meaning as a medium: The selection of information shapes the distinction of actualized information/possible information; the selection of message shapes the distinction of actualized message/possible messages; and the selection of understanding shapes the the distinction of actualized connection/possible connections. (77)

Form analysis (78)

Form is the unity of a difference. [To what is the marked indication linked? What gives the restriction in the concept distinction or the second-order concept distinction?]

System analysis (80)

A social system is simply the unity of the distinction system/environment. When communication recursively connects with communication, social systems emerge because of the distinction by the communication between self-reference and external reference – between that which constitutes the system itself and that which makes up the environment.

How does a system distinguish between system and environment when it observes [the communicative descriptions]?

Differentiation analysis

Re-entry of the distinction system/environment: system/environment becomes system, which differs from the environment etc etc.

the form of differentiation (the unity of the difference between the systems): how are the differences similar or not similar (similar/different)

Luhmanns example of the differentiation of society (the point of observation:society):

segmental diff: similar sub-systems as tribes, villages and families

stratified diff: differentiation in uneven layers on the difference top/bottom

functional diff: differentiation in dissimilar sub-systems that differ from each other in respect to their function in society.

Media analysis (form/medium)

media (mediums) is loosely coupled elements, characterized by high resolution, being accessible to Gestalt fixations. (84) (Form is on the other hand fixed connection of elements.)

Money is an example of a medium. Decisions are an example of form; they impress themselves in a medium and condense its elements into one decision, which is only a decision in relation to previous decisions and decisions not taken.

Concrete example:

The printing of the company’s logo on paper forms the medium money by requiring expenditure, the decision is not interchangeable , its meaning is tied to time and space, and can only be understood in relation to the company’s other decisions.

The form/medium staircase [continuously re-entry as above with the guiding distinction system/environment]: distinction, meaning, language, media of distribution (writing, television), general symbolic media (money).

Semantic analysis (condensation [of meaning]/meaning)

Semantics is based on the distinction between meaning and condensed meaning. Condensation means that a multitude of meaning is captured in a single form, which subsequently makes itself available to an undefined communication. Consequently, semantics are characterized as the accumulated amount of generalized forms of difference (for example concepts, ideas, images, and symbols) available for the selection of meaning within the systems of communication.

Three dimensions of meaning, which enables a distinction between three semantics:

1) The fact dimension; semantics of facts as generalized forms of “being one and not the other”

2) the social dimension: generalized forms of ego and alter; no “us” without “them”

3) the temporal dimension: the tension between past and future; “What moves in time is past/present/future together, in other words, the present [-] along with its past and future horizons” (88) [a direct consequence of the guiding distinction system/environment!]

Connections between the different analytics [Andersen on “thin ice” as he says (Luhmann on thin ice?)]

Form analysis analyses the unity of a concept, points to the blind spots by illustrating how it is based on a paradox [see page 68!, no notes here]. The semantic analysis is then able to employ the paradox as a guiding principle in tracing the history of specific semantics.

Semantics and differentiation (89) Thesis: the simultaneously transformational ruptures in the history of semantics indicates a transformation of the social structure.

System analysis and media analysis. Thesis: the historical evolution of new media makes the formation of new social systems possible. The study of how new social systems arises, therefore , should always begin with an analysis of the media-related conditions of the emergence of that system. (90)

[Concept of complexity is left out!]


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