Niklas Luhmann

Power in the System

(German title: Macht im System)
ca. 156 pages
Niklas Luhmann
Foto: Niklas Luhmann
© teutopress

Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) was professor for Sociology at the University of Bielefeld.

Major works by Niklas Luhmann:

Liebe als Passion (1982)
Soziale Systeme (1984)
Die Wirtschaft der Gesellschaft (1988)
Die Wissenschaft der Gesellschaft (1992)
Das Recht der Gesellschaft (1993)
Die Kunst der Gesellschaft (1995)
Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (1997)
Die Politik der Gesellschaft (2000)
Die Religion der Gesellschaft (2000)
Das Erziehungssystem der Gesellschaft (2002)
Die Moral der Gesellschaft (2008)
Liebe. Eine Übung (2008)

Sold to

Spanish world rights (Herder), Netherlands (Leesmagazijn), Korea (Ghil)


What is power? Is it something you take over from someone and hold for a certain amount of time before passing it on to someone else – like a refrigerator, a second-hand car, or a house?

Such a reified conception of power is only applicable under certain circumstances and even then only partially. It follows that it cannot be used as the basis for a general theory of power. The same is true of the notion that in a hierarchy the greatest power is to be found at the top, or the idea that power gained by one must result in a corresponding loss in power for others. Niklas Luhmann famously proposed a much more general theory of power, borrowing tools and methods from sociology to escape the limitations of such simplistic concepts of power and to show how greatly power structures are dependent on and change in relation to social structures and on forms of differentiation in particular.

Power in the System was written in the late 1960s but remained unpublished during the great sociologist’s lifetime. Much like his study Love: A Sketch, this text reveals the importance of the topic for Luhmann’s early work. Unlike in later versions of his theory of power, here Luhmann argues from a systems-theoretical rather than a communications-theoretical standpoint. Thus, Power in the System is also an enlightening document of systems theory in embryo.

»Power must be sought in the precincts of those states of affairs through which influence becomes generalised.«

Other publications

Der neue Chef/The New Boss (2016)

Sold to:

Netherlands (Boom), Korea (Theorie Publishing), Turkey (VakifBank)

Kontingenz und Recht/Contingency and the Law (2013)

Sold to:

Spanish world rights (Trotta)

Politische Soziologie/Political Sociology (2010)

Sold to:

Spanish world rights (Trotta), Chinese Simplex Rights (China Legal Publishing), Korea (Ghil)

Liebe/Love (2008)

Sold to:

English world rights (Polity), Spanish rights Latin America (Prometeo), Chinese complex rights (Wu-Nan Books), France (Diaphanes), Italy (Einaudi), Korea (Theorie Publishing), Serbia (Karpos), Turkey (Edebi)

Die Moral der Gesellschaft/The Morals of Society (2008)

Sold to:

Spanish world rights (Trotta), Japan (Keiso Shobo)

Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft/The Society of Society (1998)

Sold to:

English world rights (Stanford UP), Spanish world rights (Herder), Chinese Simplex rights (China Legal), Italy (Giuffre), Denmark (Reitzels), Korea (Saemulgyul), Japan (Hosei UP); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Russia (Logos), Croatia (Naklada Breza)

Die Kunst der Gesellschaft/The Art of Society (1997)

Sold to:

English world rights (Stanford UP), Spanish world rights (Herder), Chinese Simplex rights (Yilin), Chinese Complex rights (Wu Nan), Italy (Nimesis), Korea (Hangilsa), Japan (Hosei UP)

Liebe als Passion/Love as Passion (1982)

Sold to:

English world rights (Polity), Chinese complex rights (Wu-Nan Book), France (Aubier Montaigne / Flammarion), Japan (Bokutakusha), Romania (Tact), Slovenia (Krtina); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Spanish world rights (Peninsula), Portuguese rights (Difel), Italy (Pearson), Sweden (Liber AB), Korea (Saemulgyul), Poland (Scholar), Czech Republic (Prostor), Serbia (Zoran Stojanovic)