Organizations as distinction generating and processing systems: Niklas Luhmann's contribution to organization studies

Seidl, D. & Becker, K. H. (2006) Organizations as distinction generating and processing systems: Niklas Luhmann's contribution to organization studies. Organization, 13(1), pp. 9-35.

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Niklas Luhmann's theory of social systems has been widely influential in the German-speaking countries in the past few decades. However, despite its significance, particularly for organization studies, it is only very recently that Luhmann's work has attracted attention on the international stage as well. This Special Issue is in response to that. In this introductory paper, we provide a systematic overview of Luhmann's theory. Reading his work as a theory about distinction generating and processing systems, we especially highlight the following aspects: (i) Organizations are processes that come into being by permanently constructing and reconstructing themselves by means of using distinctions, which mark what is part of their realm and what not. (ii) Such an organizational process belongs to a social sphere sui generis possessing its own logic, which cannot be traced back to human actors or subjects. (iii) Organizations are a specific kind of social process characterized by a specific kind of distinction: decision, which makes up what is specifically organizational about organizations as social phenomena. We conclude by introducing the papers in this Special Issue. Copyright © 2006 SAGE.

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71 citations in Scopus
54 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 47861
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Autopoiesis, Decision, Distinction, Luhmann, Organization theory, Theory of social systems
DOI: 10.1177/1350508406059635
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Copyright Owner: Sage
Deposited On: 20 Dec 2011 07:01
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2017 14:35

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