Between 1984 and his death in 1998, German sociologist Niklas Luhmann developed a comprehensive theory of what he called autopoietic or self-referential systems.He worked out this approach both at the level of a social system as a whole and at the level of various social subsystems, such as state, economy, science, religion, education, art, family, and — the concern of the present article — law. My particular topics in this critical introduction to Luhmann’s theory are (a) its relation to more standard legal theory, (b) foundational or self-referential problems in law, and (c) the problem of law’s relation to other social spheres, especially politics and the economy.
Niklas Luhmann's Theory of Autopoietic Legal Systems,
Annual Review of Law and Social Science
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