Manage episode 338175233 series 3372749
Niklas Luhmann: Societies without People
The legacy of Niklas Luhmann
Niklas Luhmann (/ˈluːmən/; German: [ˈluːman]; December 8, 1927 – November 6, 1998) was a German sociologist, philosopher of social science, and a prominent thinker in systems theory, who is considered one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century.Luhmann was born in Lüneburg, Free State of Prussia, where his father's family had been running a brewery for several generations. He entered the Gymnasium Johanneum at Luneburg in 1937. In 1943, he was conscripted as a Luftwaffenhelfer in World War II and served for two years until, at the age of 17, he was taken prisoner of war by American troops in 1945. After the war Luhmann studied law at the University of Freiburg from 1946 to 1949, when he obtained a law degree, and then began a career in Lüneburg's public administration. During a sabbatical in 1961, he went to Harvard, where he met and studied under Talcott Parsons, then the world's most influential social systems theorist.
In later years, Luhmann dismissed Parsons' theory, developing a rival approach of his own. Leaving the civil service in 1962, he lectured at the national Deutsche Hochschule für Verwaltungswissenschaften (University for Administrative Sciences) in Speyer, Germany. In 1965, he was offered a position at the Sozialforschungsstelle (Social Research Centre) of the University of Münster, led by Helmut Schelsky. 1965/66 he studied one semester of sociology at the University of Münster.
Two earlier books were retroactively accepted as a PhD thesis and habilitation at the University of Münster in 1966, qualifying him for a university professorship. In 1968/1969, he briefly served as a lecturer at Theodor Adorno's former chair at the University of Frankfurt and then was appointed full professor of sociology at the newly founded University of Bielefeld, Germany (until 1993). He continued to publish after his retirement, when he finally found the time to complete his magnum opus, Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (literally, "The Society of Society"), which was published in 1997, and has been translated into English as Theory of Society