Functions, communication, and perception of emotions in Luhmannian theory: Emotions as reflection resources of social systems

J. Riese

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

To integrate the social effects of emotions which have been described in the literature into Niklas Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic social systems, it is necessary to explain how emotions, which according to Luhmann are psychic phenomena, can become relevant in the social sphere even if no communication about them takes place. This paper makes use of Weinbach’s “person/habitus” construct and suggests that emotions can be communicated via the addresses of “persons” and/or perceived via the addresses of “habitus”. In both cases they become socially relevant. Emotions help to secure the autopoiesis of organic, psychic, and social systems. They support the maintenance of viable social structures and induce change of social structures which no longer seem viable. They can thus be seen as reflection resources not merely of psychic, but also of social systems. This conceptualization of emotions draws our attention to the importance of bodies for the social sphere. It suggests that the role of emotions is too complex and unique for them to be subsumed under a different concept such as that of symbolically generalized communication media. It further opens up possibilities for integrating Luhmann’s theory further with the psychological and psychotherapeutic literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-72
JournalSoziale Systeme
Volume17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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