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Title: The concept of community in the transformation of systems theory : Luhmann, Habermas and recent German writing
Author: Gaupp, Niklas
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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The concept of community is highly problematic in the German context. ‘Gemeinschaft’ plays only a minor role in post-1945 philosophical writing, arguably as a result of the abuse of the concept by the National Socialists (‘Volksgemeinschaft’). Two of the major contemporary social philosophies in the German language, those of Jürgen Habermas and Niklas Luhmann, are deeply critical of ‘community’. Habermas rejects ‘community’ that has not been purified by a rational filter (as opposed to what he conceives of as the ideal ‘Kommunikationsgemeinschaft’). Luhmann rejects the concept outright, arguing that it is simply ‘alteuropäisch’ (i.e. based on out-of-date philosophical assumptions), and that it has no place in the description of modern society. In contrast to these prominent dismissive positions, I argue that the concept of community is an underrated one. First, Habermas relies more heavily on the concept of community than his focus on the ‘Lebenswelt’ makes us believe. I characterise his conception as a ‘transformation’ of systems theory, because his social philosophy partly adopts systems theory, while complementing it with the aspect of ‘community’. Second, I argue that contemporary cultural theoreticians (for example, Peter Sloterdijk) take systems theory as a starting point for developing ultimately communitarian social philosophies. The concept of community proves crucial as supplementation and balancing of systems-theoretical elements in contemporary thinking. Once this transformative role is recognised, a purely historical treatment of the concept of community – one which, as in Luhmann’s systems theory, sees no place for it in present or future theory – begins to look premature.
Supervisor: Groiser, David S. Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Scatcherd Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Intellectual History ; German ; Literatures of Germanic languages ; Systems Theory ; Community ; Luhmann