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date: 17 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Niklas Luhmann ranks as one of the most important German social theorists of the twentieth century. While he is often portrayed as a general social theorist or even as a theorist of society, this chapter argues that he was first and foremost an organization theorist. There are two different phases in his work: the first is characterized by his interest in organizational structures. Applying his functional method, he compared different formal and informal structures with regard to their capacity to reduce complexity and thus enable organizational members to act. The second is marked by Luhmann’s ‘autopoietic turn’ and his processual view of organizations. Organizations were thereby treated as one particular type of system within his general systems theory. This allowed him to address organizations in their relationship to other systems in their environment. In each phase of his work Luhmann made important contributions to organization theory.

Keywords: autopoiesis, communication, communication as constitutive of organizations, comparative functionalism, processual approach, systems theory

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