A Critical Review of Luhmann’s Social Systems Theory’s Perspective on Mass Media and Social Media


Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems relies on a biology-based self-reproduction process called autopoiesis. The process occurs within operationally closed systems. Luhmann constructs his theory through adapting this approach to social ground with the assumption that a similar process and operationally closedness also exist in social systems. Alongside his works which examine fields such as economy, law, art, etc., Luhmann puts a special emphasis on the examination of mass media by applying this theory. However, in this article, it is argued that Luhmann’s social systems theory today falls short of analyzing media efficiently despite that emphasis. The argument is endorsed in three main sections. In the first one, the social systems theory is explicated and discussed critically, and then its excessively abstract and theoretical structure is exposed. Secondly, the main lines of Luhmann’s approach to mass media are given and a critical reading of that is carried out. In the last section, it is propounded that significant social media influence on today’s mass media and increasing integration between the two cannot be sufficiently explained by the operationally closed systems approach in the social systems theory. This assertion is defended through an analysis of twitter as a platform of social media.


social systems theory Luhmann mass media social media twitter