Department of Political Science

Gorm Harste

The big, large and huge case of state-building: Studying the macro phenomena of evolution with system theory

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch

  • Department of Political Science

Using communication theory as point of departure, it is not evident how to study macro phenomena. Michel Foucault limited his studies to a non-Grand Theory when studying discursive events. At the same time, Charles Tilly wrote about Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons when trying to establish a perspective on a macro phenomena as European state formation. With Luhmann's system theory, the claim is that there is no such contradiction between Grand evolution and particular semantic history. Passing through some classic studies of the historical establishment of interaction systems, organization systems and functional systems, the paper outlines some indications on how to study European state formation from a second order system theory. The point is to observe the semantic codings as second order codes of codes and to look after this self-referential form in the semantic history of organization, war, finance, law and politics. This offers a picture of structures, semantic differentiations and of elites and commoners who have an interest in operations that pave the way for state formation as an evolutionary learning process. In order to fulfill that aim, aspects of Luhmann's theory have had to be further developed with a theory of organization history and a theory of Der Krieg der Gesellschaft. Hence, a system theory of state formations appears to be a grounded theory with a form of sensitivity to semantic developments and history. In such a theory, semantic material offers a difference to theoretical standpoints and hypotheses.


Original languageEnglish
Publication year2009
Number of pages17
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2009
EventApplied System Theory - Niklas Luhmann's theory of self-referential systems: Theoretical and empirical research. - Dubrovnik IUC, Croatia
Duration: 14 Sep 200918 Sep 2009


ConferenceApplied System Theory - Niklas Luhmann's theory of self-referential systems: Theoretical and empirical research.
CityDubrovnik IUC

    Research areas

  • Luhmann, empirical research, methodologies, code analysis, form analysis, historical trend, evolution, system theory, Parsons, Deutsch, Easton, Luhmann, self-reference, communication, system and environment, state-building, Europe, Revolution

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