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The Luhmannian approach to exclusion/inclusion and its relevance to Social Work 1


Werner Schirmer and Dimitris Michailakis Journal of Social Work published online 27 September 2013 DOI: 10.1177/1468017313504607 The online version of this article can be found at: http://jsw.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/09/26/1468017313504607

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Article

The Luhmannian approach to exclusion/ inclusion and its relevance to Social Work1
Werner Schirmer
Department of Social and Welfare Studies, University of ping, Linko ping, Sweden; Center for Social Theory, Ghent Linko University, Ghent, Belgium

Journal of Social Work 0(0) 120 ! The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1468017313504607 jsw.sagepub.com

Dimitris Michailakis
Department of Social and Welfare Studies, University of ping, SE, Linko ping, Sweden Linko

Abstract  Summary: Although the concept of social exclusion is central to the academic discipline of social work, there is not much theoretical clarity about what it actually means. For instance, exclusion is used as a synonym for poverty, marginalization, detachment, unemployment, or solitude. We argue that the systems-theoretical framework developed by the German social theorist Niklas Luhmann (19271997) provides the conceptual tools to understand inclusion and exclusion in a theoretically adequate way that is highly relevant to Social Work. Since there is scarcely any literature on Luhmanns work in the field of social work not written in German, this article aims to provide a systematic introduction to the Luhmannian theory of society with respect to the distinction of inclusion/exclusion and its relation to social work to an English-speaking audience.  Findings: After a presentation of some basic concepts, it will be argued that exclusion is not a problem per se nor is inclusion always and per se unproblematic. The Luhmannian approach suggests that inclusion and exclusion are operations of social systems that treat human beings as relevant addresses for communication. Against that background, systems theory gives a clear and accurate description of what social work can (and cannot) do in terms of inclusion/exclusion.  Applications: The main purpose of social work is exclusion management. Exclusion management involves working on the social addresses of individuals with the aim of
Corresponding author: ping, Campus Norrko ping, Norrko ping 60174, Sweden. Werner Schirmer, University of Linko Email: werner.schirmer@liu.se

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improving their attractiveness for other social systems, a (re)orientation towards being includable. It appears in three forms: exclusion prevention, inclusion mediation, and exclusion administration. Keywords Exclusion, inclusion, Luhmann, social work theory, systems theory

Introduction
It is probably a commonality in the literature that one raison de tre of social work is to deal with social exclusion. It is likewise a commonality that there is not much theoretical clarity on what is actually meant by the term exclusion. A review of the pertinent literature in leading Social Work journals and textbooks (Axford, 2010; Buchanan, 2006; Dominelli, 1999; Hallero d & Larsson, 2008; Heikkila & Sihvo, 1997; Pierson, 2010; Sheppard, 2006; Taket et al., 2009; Washington & Paylor, 1998) shows that the concept of exclusion is rarely underpinned by social theory, and the term is often used as a synonym for poverty, marginalization, i.e. people detached from participation in society, especially deprived of a job, money, family, friends, etc. Furthermore, there is often the normative misunderstanding that the occurrence of social exclusion is per se a problem, with the consequence being that inclusion is seen as the solution. Drawing on the framework of social systems theory developed by Niklas Luhmann, we will argue that exclusion and inclusion are pairs of a binary distinction and that they play a crucial role in understanding the relation between society and the individual as well as for the societal function of social work. In the German literature, there is a considerable body of work applying and developing Luhmanns general theory of social systems to the case of organized social help and its relation to society (Baecker, 1994; Bommes & Scherr, 2000b; Fuchs, 2000). However, as there is scarcely any work published in international journals (among the exceptions are Scherr, 1999; Villadsen, 2008; Wirth, 2009), the aim of this article is to provide a systematic introduction to the Luhmannian theory of society with respect to the inclusion/exclusion distinction and its relation to social work to an English-speaking audience. We will draw on Luhmanns original work as well as on that of the most important Luhmann scholars in Social Work. The article begins with a contextualization of Luhmannian systems theory within general systems theory and in relation to social work (Systems theory and social work). Starting out with dierentiation theory, the section Luhmanns theory of society oers a clarication of the key component of Luhmanns concept of modern society, i.e. functional dierentiation into systems such as the economy, politics, science, religion, etc. Further, the relation between function systems and organization systems is discussed. The section Society and the individual deals with the often misunderstood relation between human beings and society in Luhmanns theory. This part will map out in detail how human beings, despite being part of the

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environment of social systems, are crucial as psychic systems and persons. While the rst two sections are very abstract, they are necessary steps in order to comprehend the description of the inclusion/exclusion distinction in the last section. This is the pivotal section, as it shows how people are included in and excluded from social systems. It is argued that exclusion and inclusion are not per se problem and solution, respectively. On the one hand, inclusion as such can be problematic; on the other hand, exclusion is an operative requirement for modern society. Nonetheless, inclusion in some function systems and organizations is vital for an adequate social life. Against that background, systems theory argues that the special function that social work fulls for society is exclusion management, which occurs in three forms: exclusion prevention, inclusion mediation, and exclusion administration.

Systems theory and social work


Before we start developing Luhmanns account of systems theory, a few words need to be said about the relation between systems-theoretical approaches and social work. The biologist von Bertalany is usually seen as the founder of general systems theory (von Bertalany, 1968). However, for the social sciences, it was Parsons whose path breaking book The Social System had a clear focus on systems already about 20 years earlier (Parsons & Smelser, 2012 [1951]). As pointed out by Payne (2002: 272f), the social work textbooks by Goldstein (1973) as well as Pincus and Minahan (1973) were the rst to introduce systems thinking into social work. Goldstein emphasizes that clients are to be understood as parts of social systems; likewise the relation between client and social worker can be described as a system. Pincus and Minahan mention the relevance of resource/support systems and their relation to clients. Furthermore, there is a whole tradition of cybernetic and systemic approaches in psychiatry, psychology, and family therapy, foremost by Bateson (1972) and the Palo Alto-School around Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson (1967) that had considerable impact on social work (see Kleve, 2007). The common denominator of all these dierent systems-theories is that they refuse to analyse phenomena in isolation (e.g. people and their behaviours) but consider these as elements of a system. In other words, people and actions are placed within a context and studied in their relation to other people and actions. The main focus is then on the relations between these elements and the emergent, systemic eects which cannot be explained by the mere properties of the elements. Additionally, systems-theoretical approaches are interested in how these elements together form a system, i.e. a unity which due to its distinctive properties dierentiates itself from an environment. Although there is this general compatibility between many systems-theories, there is also what an external observer might call a division of labour. On the one hand, there are approaches within social work, psychotherapy, family therapy, etc. which aim to solve clients problems and/or improve the relation between client

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and social worker/therapist. These approaches are interventionist insofar as their underlying idea is that interventions are more successful when considering systems theoretical insights. On the other hand, there are systems-theories that are oriented more towards gaining knowledge; these share the underlying idea that systemstheory oers insights more appropriate for understanding the world than nonsystemic theories. Examples are the complex frameworks by von Bertalany, Maturana, and Varela in biology or Parsons, Weick, Wallerstein, and Luhmann within the social sciences. Social work as an applied science is basically interventionist but in order to be good at this, it draws from interdisciplinary sources of knowledge, such as biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, pedagogics, etc. Hence, in the same way as biological, cybernetic or psychological systems-theories provide relevant insights that can be used within social work in order to make interventions better, we can argue that Luhmanns sociological systems theory provides equally relevant insights for social work. The focus lies, as mentioned above, on a better understanding of the social conditions of inclusion and exclusion, and this shall be shown in the following sections.

Luhmanns theory of society Functional differentiation


The Luhmannian theory follows the well-established sociological tradition of differentiation according to which society is not understood as a single unit (such as a collective of people) but in terms of dierence. This assumption has many predecessors in social theory. Just think of the Marxist dierence of bourgeoisie and proletariat, Webers polytheism of value spheres, Simmels intersecting social circles, or a bit more recently the Habermasian dierence of life world and systems. Luhmanns approach is, more specically, an enhancement of the functionalist strand of dierentiation theory following primarily Durkheims social division of labour and Parsons dierentiation of the social system into four function systems known as the AGIL scheme. In line with these authors, Luhmann assumes a functional dierentiation of modern society (Luhmann, 1997: 743). But unlike earlier versions of systems theory (mainly Parsons), Luhmann does not consider action as the unit of the social. Instead, he takes interdisciplinary developments of second-order cybernetics (Von Foerster, 1984) and communication theory (Shannon & Weaver, 1972; Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 1967) seriously and denes communication as the key element of social processes (Stichweh, 2000). Accordingly, Luhmann understands society as the comprehensive social system encompassing all communication. The dierence between the social and non-social realm is equivalent to the dierence between communication and non-communication. Everything that is not communication is exterior to society, like human beings with their bodies and minds. We will return to this point later in the article (see the section Society and the individual).

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It is important at this stage of our analysis to note that society consists of communication systems (not assemblies of people or patterns of social actions). The way to approach the analysis of social phenomena is to analyse communicative structures. According to Luhmannian systems theory, contemporary society is no longer primarily structured by social stratication or geographical dierences. Obviously, these dierences persist but only in the form of secondary, collateral orders. Instead, the core characteristic of society is dierentiation into a number of communication systems such as the economy, politics, law, science, religion, medicine, education, social help, etc. What these systems have in common is that they full a function for society, i.e. they solve a specic reference problem for society. Politics, for instance, solves the problem of order by providing collectively binding decisions (Luhmann, 2000a); the economy deals with the allocation of resources under conditions of scarcity (Luhmann, 1988a); science helps to advance knowledge (Luhmann, 1990). Function systems full their particular functions exclusively, i.e. no other system in their environment is competent for this specic function. As Luhmann puts it:
The political system cannot replace the economic system, the economic system cannot replace the educational system, the educational system cannot replace the legal system, the legal system cannot replace the political system, because no functional subsystem is able to solve the core problems of another system. (Luhmann, 1988b: 120)

On the basis of their functional primacy, the function systems achieve operative closure (Luhmann, 1997: 748). Operational closure means that the systems structure their communications based on their unique observation code (also known as guiding dierence). Examples are payment/no payment for the economic system, true/false for science, ill/healthy for the medical system, or lawful/unlawful for the legal system. Due to its specialization, each system is hypersensitive to specic events that its unique guiding dierence allows it to see; it is blind and therefore indierent to everything else. The function system codes reduce the enormous complexity of the world to a small window of relevance. The economy, for instance, is sensitive to the world in terms of commodities and prices, but not to truthfulness, aesthetic values, or political expedience. The legal system transforms every event in the world into a potential legal problem, depending on its (un)lawfulness. Science focuses on whether knowledge is methodologically and theoretically tenable, while it is indierent as to whether this knowledge contradicts microeconomic rationalities or the catechisms of leading religious congregations. Religious communication, in turn, observes in terms of immanence or transcendence, no matter how irrational or methodologically devious this might look from other functional perspectives. Their observational code and operative closure not only allow function systems to distinguish their own communications from the communications of other systems. At the same time, they also create mutually incompatible function-specic constructions of (i.e. information about) society. The functionally dierentiated

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society is therefore characterized by a fragmentation of values and descriptions of social realities (Luhmann, 1998). In this regard, modern society is not a single unit but a multiplicity of incongruent function system-specic views of it.

Organizations and function systems


With the shift toward functional dierentiation, modern society has reached a degree of complexity and interdependence between subsystems unprecedented in earlier societies. This is partly a result of the primary structure of society but also of another line of social dierentiation that needs to be taken into account, namely the dierentiation of levels of communication systems into society (i.e. the level of function systems), organization systems (e.g. governments, churches, business corporations, schools) and face-to-face interaction systems (e.g. meetings, court trials, church services, dinner parties; see Luhmann, 1982). In this section, we concentrate on organization systems and how they relate to function systems. The organization is a type of social system which reproduces itself through a recursive network of decisions and which discriminates between members and non-members (Luhmann, 2000b). In contrast to function systems, organizations have two special features: they can have a hierarchical structure and build up complex arrangements of behavioural expectations; they have a communicative address (Luhmann, 1997: 834f) which enables them to communicate with other organizations. Organizations normally operate within the context of function systems. We can, for instance, easily consider banks and businesses as organizations in the context of the economy; schools in the context of education; churches in the context of religion; hospitals in the context of medicine; research institutes and universities in the context of science; parties, governments and non-governmental organizations in the context of politics; or courts in the context of law. However, it is important to note that organizations are operatively distinct from their function systems; they follow their own internal routines (such as decision procedures, membership rules, micropolitical rationalities). The more complex they are the greater their capability of internal dierentiation (for example into dierent departments, subdivisions, work groups). This produces an unbeatable advantage over function systems. As we outlined above, the logic and guiding dierence of one function system cannot be subsumed in another. One simply cannot observe legally from an economic perspective. The horizon of the economic system contains only economic distinctions and therefore provides economic criteria. But an organization (or individual) can shift from one perspective to another. In this way, communication in organizations is necessarily linked to several function systems. That is, in producing decisions, they can utilize a multiplicity of codes (e.g. economic, legal, scientic, etc.) simultaneously (Andersen, 2003). Although a business corporation is mainly active in the economic system with the goal to generate a prot, it may have its legal department to work out contracts, its research department to develop products, and its training centre to educate personnel. Similarly, a research institute

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operates mainly within a scientic context, applying valid and reliable methods and veried theories in order to gain new knowledge, but it cannot do so without taking care of funding and legal contracts with its personnel. It is apparent in both examples that the codes of function systems are subordinated to the rationalities and purposes of organizations. A business corporation conducts research in order to improve the competitiveness of its products on the market in serving its main goal of making a prot. In this regard, it also becomes obvious that organizations do not represent their function systems. Banks and corporations are not the economy nor is a national research council science or the Roman Catholic Church the religion. Organizations follow their own (albeit bounded) rationalities, which are not always in line with the normative semantic stock of function systems. We will see later in the section Inclusion, exclusion, and social work that, for this reason, function systems and organizations handle inclusion and exclusion dierently.

Society and the individual Human beings, psychic systems, and persons
Before we proceed in our elaboration of inclusion and exclusion in modern society, we must discuss the role human beings are assigned in systems theory. In the humanist tradition followed by many social and political theories, human beings are commonly seen as the unit of social processes (the subject, the actor, the individual). The Luhmannian theory of social systems, however, rejects the idea that people of esh and blood are the constituent parts of society. With its roots in general systems theory, this theory distinguishes several types (and emergent levels) of systems such as machines, living cells, organic systems, neuronal circuits, psychic systems, and social systems. As noted in the previous section, social systems are communication systems (Luhmann, 1995). Taking this communication-theoretical point of departure seriously, there is only the possibility to regard the human being fully squarely, with body and soul, as part of the environment of society (Luhmann, 1997: 30).2 The human being has no conceptual place in Luhmanns social theory simply because it cannot be unied in one single system comprising, among others, a number of chemical molecules, a complex biological organism, a consciousness and social characteristics (see also Brunczel, 2010: 201). Societys constituent parts are thus not human beings, but communications and nothing other than communications (Luhmann, 2002: 156). This theoretical manoeuvre has given rise to many misunderstandings and sharp criticism (with respect to Social Work, see for example Kihlstro m, 2012; Klassen, 2004). A common objection from critics is that society is inconceivable without human beings.3 However, Luhmann certainly does not claim that a human society can exist without human beings. On the contrary, without the body and the psychic system communication is impossible. Yet Luhmann adds: It is also impossible without carbon, without moderate temperatures, without the earths magnetic eld,

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without the atomic bonding of matter (Luhmann, 2002: 157). The question which then arises is: in what ways do people appear in (the context of) society according to Luhmanns systems theory? There are two ways that need mentioning here; one is the psychic system and the other is the form of person. Psychic systems. Psychic system is the term systems theory assigns to human consciousness, that is, a system of perceptions and thoughts (Luhmann, 1995). It is important to recognize the operational dierence with social systems: a social system cannot think, a psychic system cannot communicate (Luhmann, 2002: 165). Accordingly, no transfer is possible between a psychic and a social system and vice versa, i.e. no perceptions can enter communication (Brunczel, 2010: 48) [a]nd one must also be aware that the systems are opaque to each other (Luhmann, 2002: 165). Opaqueness implies that [o]ne can neither conrm nor refute, neither interrogate nor respond to what another has perceived. It remains locked up in consciousness and nontransparent to the system of communication as well as to every other consciousness (Luhmann, 2002: 158). Obviously, in social interaction the body and the mind of human beings are involved. But it should be noted that peoples thoughts and bodies do not become elements in interaction systems. So if person A perceives something (for example a slight headache), person B will not know about this unless she tells him about it. If, however, she does tell him, B can learn about her headache but cannot perceive the headache himself. Thus, B needs to believe As statement (or look for noncommunicative indicators for verication). Communication develops a momentum which cannot be predicted or controlled by participating human beings. If B now replies (truthfully) that he cannot feel the pain himself, A might be emotionally upset and react by saying Are you doubting my words? B might then wonder why A is overreacting to Bs seemingly harmless statement but, fearing further escalation, he simply says No, of course I believe what you say. Communication can only process a fragment of what is thought by a consciousness. As can be seen in this brief example, social systems and psychic systems operate as environments to each other, triggering events with potential communicative relevance. The form of person. There is a correlate in social systems which is complementary to psychic systems as part of the environment of communication, which is the form of person. Luhmann denes person as follows:
The term person here shall [. . .] describe a unit that can be referred to by communication, thus something that only exists in communication and only for communication. Communication can only work if it can distinguish who utters something and who is involved just passively by understanding. (Luhmann, 2000a: 375)

Communication needs authors and addresses, i.e. senders and receivers of messages. It is communication, which, during the management of its

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self-simplication, generates. . .points of attributability, which then appear as acting (uttering) persons (Fuchs, 1997: 60). As Luhmann notes, [p]ersons are identications that do not refer to any operational mode of their own. They are, thus, not systems (Luhmann, 2005a: 141). Seen from that perspective, the dierence between persons (as a product of communication) and their psychic systems (as a precondition for communication) becomes obvious. Persons are the addresses that specic communications can be attributed to, i.e. this concept enables it to be determined who said what and allows the attribution of actions to one individual and not another. The same human being can be addressed as a dierent person in a dierent setting. For example, somebodys opinion may be considered important when it comes to cars but not child rearing, so he could be addressed as an expert in the rst case and as a non-expert in the second. We are clearly speaking about the same human being, but a dierent person, contingent on the communicative context. The same human being can be addressed as dierent persons, for example a Wall Street investment banker whose reckless strategy brought enormous prot to his company at the cost of workers and farmers can be described as a genius, hero, lucky guy, greedy yuppie, or irresponsible servant of capital: the same human being, a dierent person, contingent on the observing system. To summarize, through the concept person Luhmann can do justice to the fact that human beings are anything but irrelevant in his theory, he can do justice to the operative dierence between social systems and psychic systems, and he can do justice to the sociological fact that the way people appear in social systems is highly variable. In other words, the form of person is the device by which social systems include human beings in (and exclude them from) communication processes.

Inclusion, exclusion, and social work How modern society includes persons
The concept of inclusion is the link between human beings and society in Luhmanns theory. In line with the starting point of communication theory, inclusion means that human beings are held relevant in communication (Luhmann, 2005c: 226), i.e. they are considered as communicative addresses, as persons, as bearers of roles, as accountable actors (see Nassehi, 2002: 127). The way persons are made relevant (and irrelevant) to communication depends on the structure of society. Prehistoric segmentary societies as well as ancient and medieval stratied societies considered human beings wholly as part of segments (a clan, a tribe) or strata (such as nobles, peasants, or slaves). Membership in families and clans more or less completely predened the societal place a person belonged to as well as his/ her life opportunities (Braeckman, 2006; Luhmann, 1997). To be included then meant to be perceived as part of one and only one social system (i.e. the clan, tribe, family, or stratum). The transition to modern, functionally dierentiated society has signicantly changed the relationship between society and individuals. Let us keep in mind

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that functional dierentiation implies that society is the (unity of the) dierence between many incommensurable function systems, each fullling its own function and observing with each its own code. Accordingly, their way of addressing human beings is fundamentally dierent than those of the subsystems of previous societies. Persons are now included in many dierent function systems, although only in regard to system-specic operations (Luhmann, 1997: 765). This means that persons do not participate in function systems as a whole but as carriers of functionally relevant roles. There are two types of roles through which people can be included in function systems: performance roles and layman roles (Stichweh, 1988).4 Performance roles are the roles function systems need to full their societal functions and their performance for other systems. Examples of performance roles are entrepreneurs and traders in the economic system, researchers in science, doctors in medicine, politicians in politics, teachers in education, priests in religion, social workers in the system of social help, journalists in the media, judges and attorneys in law, etc. On the other hand, there are layman roles, which are associated with the performance roles in a complementary way. Laymen are the receivers/recipients of the systems performances carried out by the performance roles. Examples are buyers/consumers in the economy, patients in medicine, voters/ taxpayers/citizens in politics, pupils in education, believers in religion, clients in social help, readers/watchers in the media, convicts/witnesses in law, etc. In both cases, the term role implies that they embrace highly scripted behavioural expectation structures. However, there are obviously enough degrees of freedom in the way individuals (as persons) can carry out these role scripts (some individuals are less successful than others and ultimately can become relevant as clients of social help; see below). The shift to functional dierentiation implies that inclusion in society and its subsystems is no longer determined by family membership, i.e. by class or ethnic background. In modern society, inclusion takes place through a variety of specialized systems, operating according to their specic symbolic codes and programs. Whether one is considered relevant as a communicative address now depends on whether one can meet the expectations the various function systems and organizations have of persons (Bommes & Scherr, 2000b: 80). It is obvious that inclusion via performance roles requires more skills, education, and qualities than via layman roles. For example, becoming a doctor, judge, or scientist requires the successful mastery of many years of study. In contrast, layman roles are, in principle, open to everyone. It is via layman roles that function systems provide a universalism of inclusion (Bommes & Scherr, 2000b: 96) according to which everybody who fulls the function system-specic requirements is admitted to politics, law, the economy, science, health or education (Bommes & Scherr, 2000b: 96).

No inclusion without exclusion


Up to now, most of the discussion here has dealt with inclusion. However, as Luhmann notes: It only makes sense to speak of inclusion if there is exclusion

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(Luhmann, 2005c: 226). This is not only a logical necessity but also an empirical fact. As we said, human beings are not part of society but part of the environment. In terms of inclusion/exclusion, they are excluded from society, both as organic and psychic systems. At the same time, they are included in function systems as persons via specic (performance and layman) roles; they receive their specic social addresses in function systems. As we also argued, the form of person refers to dierent aspects of individuals in relation to dierent social contexts. Function systems can only observe their own specialized image of the individual. Everything they observe is formed according to function-specic operational modes. Hence, they do not address the whole individual but only functionally relevant aspects of the individual (Brunczel, 2010: 169; Wirth, 2009: 414), while disregarding, i.e. excluding, the rest of the individual as irrelevant to their operational mode. Inclusion in one function system (being addressed in one specic way by that system) means, then, by denition, exclusion of the rest of the individual at the same time. The included (addressed) aspect of the individual is relevant while the excluded (non-addressed) parts are irrelevant, as explicated by Bommes and Scherr:
By receiving addresses in communication, i.e. by being addressed as children, youth, parents, experts, scientist, laymen, etc. and thus as persons, their relevance to an ongoing communicative event in education, science or religion is designated and concurrently their irrelevance to other things, e.g. the childrens irrelevance to science or the scientists irrelevance to matters of creed. (Bommes & Scherr, 2000b: 77)

In contrast to pre-modern societies, which include human beings comprehensively and exclusively in one multi-functional social system (such as a family, corporation, or monastery), inclusion in modern society takes the form of partial multiinclusion, i.e. partial inclusion in a number of dierent mono-functional systems (Braeckman, 2006: 70). Individuals are included specically in social systems, in gurative terms only as slices, but as many dierent slices in many dierent social contexts (remember Simmels intersection of social circles). An individual as a whole remains somewhere in the environment of the function systems, i.e. excluded. In this regard, Luhmann speaks of exclusion individuality (Luhmann, 1989: 158; see also Hillebrandt, 1999). Among other things, this concept implies that individuals have to integrate the great variety of behavioural expectations outside of society, i.e. in their minds (psychic systems).

Inclusion and exclusion and the role of organizations


While functional systems operate on the basis of universal inclusion (in principle, any individual can be included in either a performance or complementary role), organizations operate on the basis of very limited, strictly dened inclusion. As a rule, hardly anybody is included; the great majority of people are excluded from most existing organizations (Jo nhill, 2012: 394). To state this as a formula: while

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function systems are open to everyone, organizations restrict access and are closed to almost everyone (Nassehi, 2005: 189). Organizations include (and exclude) people on the basis of membership (Luhmann, 2000b). They alone dene the conditions of membership, which not only cover certain formal entry requirements (such as minimum age, competence, legal track record, and health condition as well as ascriptive criteria such as gender, ethnic and religious aliation, etc.) but also behavioural expectations (fullling dened tasks, quality of performance, etiquette, etc.). Failure of the latter could jeopardize membership. It is a matter of course that dierent organizations require dierent competences and behaviour than others depending on whether the organization is a court, school, business, government, church, social care provider, etc. The same is true of dierent functional and hierarchical roles; not only does a high-ranked manager need more leadership competences than an assembly line worker but also more morally proper behaviour when representing the organization to the outside world. As we outlined for function systems, the distinction between performance roles and layman roles is important for organizations as well. Performance roles almost always require membership (or they are marked as an explicit exception, for example freelancers or consultants). Layman roles sometimes require membership (such as citizenship, membership in tenant associations, unions, immigrant associations, sports clubs, country clubs, matriculation in universities); if they do not imply membership, they at least require fullment of specic conditions (such as nancial capabilities, religious confession, dress code). Often these dierences of inclusion levels are symbolized by spatial boundaries, such as counters in banks and public administrations or personnel only signs in shops and restaurants. Performance roles sit behind the counter and have access to the backrooms (representing inside), whereas layman roles (customers, clients, citizens) are allowed to enter the front rooms, which represent a limited form of inclusion; excluded people are not even allowed to gain entrance (or they might get the attention of security personnel). It should be apparent from the preceding paragraphs that inclusion is not to be confused with equality. Despite the semantics of equality (Reich & Michailakis, 2005), universal inclusion does not mean equal inclusion (Nassehi, 2002). Especially within organizations, inclusion and inequality do not contradict each other. The dierence between performance roles and layman roles already indicates this. There are dierent gradations of inclusion via performance roles in organizations which are unequal in terms of salary, status, power, inuence, and accumulated knowledge. For instance, nurses, plaintis, and research assistants are without a doubt also performance roles in their respective systems, but clearly of lower status than high-ranking professions. As Bora (2002) showed with the example of law, there are also many dierent gradations of layman roles in that system: even if everybody (including children and people with severe cognitive impairments) has a basic legal capacity, not everyone is capable of being guilty or able to draw up contracts.

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In this regard, inclusion is not only not the same as equality, but inclusion can even be the reason for more inequality (Brunczel, 2010: 225; Nassehi, 2002). This is a co-product of the very operational modes of the function systems. The educational system produces good and bad students (with high and low grades), and only those with good grades will be eligible for higher education; the economic system produces rich and poor people, and only those who already have property (and other nancial assets) will get better interest rates and larger loans. The legal system produces model citizens and criminals, and those who already have a criminal record are likely to be convicted again. It is important to see that all these examples are eects of inclusion, not of exclusion. Inclusion in modern society can lead to cumulative eects of inequality, which is also indicated by an overlap between the performance role(s) an individual holds and the quality of his/her layman roles (Miller, 2001: 106). Holders of high-ranking performance roles (chief physician, CEO, professor, etc.) receive a high income, have high status, and usually have a high level of education, which then enables them to take on layman roles at higher levels in terms of price, status, exclusivity, etc. The reverse is true for holders of low-ranking performance roles (such as cleaner, manual labourer or janitor), whose inclusion via layman roles in other systems is usually also of lower quality.

Exclusion as a problem
Exclusion individuality is a type of exclusion that is not per se a problem; it is rather a structural requirement of modern society since function systems can only operate properly by not including human beings as a whole. Exclusion then refers not only to a structural precondition but to an empirical consequence of functional dierentiation (Bommes & Scherr, 2000b: 94). Furthermore, nor is exclusion from organizations a problem per se simply because of the empirical fact that everyone is excluded from most organizations and included in only a few. There is, however, another type of exclusion, which is commonly seen to be far more problematic. If inclusion means that people are considered relevant by social systems, exclusion means the opposite. Exclusion designates the situation where people are not considered relevant participants in communication and therefore are not given a communicative address (Luhmann, 2005c: 244). As a result, this means that such human beings cannot benet from the performances the function systems oer (such as education, knowledge, wealth, legal protection, medical treatment, etc.) because they are not considered interesting enough for the system (Miller, 2001: 92) according to the selection criteria which apply equally to everyone regardless of class, ethnicity, gender, etc. Exclusion can imply either that their entry (as performance or layman roles) into a system is not possible or that their remaining within the system is at stake (Miller, 2001: 92). Apparently, exclusion from some function systems (e.g. the media, arts, religion, or science) is less problematic in its consequences for the individual involved than exclusion from the economy, politics, law, medicine or education. Individuals in modern society need income, the right to vote, the right to defend themselves before a court, access to medical

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service and education, etc. (Luhmann, 1997: 744). The key to an adequate life in modern society is inclusion not only via layman roles, thereby participating in the performances from function systems, but via (at least one) performance role(s). Assuming that individuals are rewarded via performance roles for their performances, performance roles are the way to ensure survival (Miller, 2001: 106), not just in terms of payment but in terms of identity, self-esteem, access to partnership, etc. With a few exceptions (such as free artists), performance roles of function systems are associated with organizations, and as noted, people need to full restrictive requirements in order to be considered relevant by organizations, that is, included as a member in their performing function. People can nd themselves in precarious situations on the way to exclusion, if the income from one performance role is not enough to secure economic survival, or if their qualications or other attributes (such as racial and ethnic identity, gender, age, health, physical impairments) do not t the ocial or unocial requirements of organizations. In contrast to function systems, organizations do not need to adhere to semantics of equality or universal inclusion. For them it is not a problem if an individual is not relevant enough for inclusion as long as there are many other individuals available to carry out the tasks. It is one eect of modernity that despite the basic universalism of inclusion not everybody is actually needed. While function systems are structurally autonomous and thus separately select whether an individual meets the requirements for inclusion and is given a communicative address, there are so-called cumulative eects of exclusion. Failure to meet the requirements of social systems is often empirically interdependent. Exclusion from one system can seriously hamper the chances of inclusion in other systems. Without citizenship documents, be it domestic or foreign (exclusion from politics), someone will have diculty getting a job in the ocial labour market, and therefore diculty getting a loan, a lease for housing, medical care, etc. (Luhmann, 1997). As a result, people in such situations run the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant and tend to fall o the radar of function systems completely. Terms such as excluded, homeless, and unemployed refer to the limited relevance of some persons to certain function systems and organizations (Bommes & Scherr, 2000b: 77), which (paradoxically) make them highly relevant to the system of social help, that is, includable via its layman role of client.

Social work as exclusion management


The empirical fact that social systems (especially organizations) cannot operate without excluding persons (due to limited available positions, lack of resources, insucient skills, etc.) stands in stark contrast to the normative expectation of universal inclusion at the level of function systems. For the modern welfare state, being a granter and advocate of inclusion and equality within its territory, exclusion tendencies create problems of political legitimacy and, ultimately, of social order. In order to counter this, the welfare state has a wide array of tools at its disposal (including citizenship rights, social insurance, economic

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compensation, pensions, and compulsory education). As is apparent in a historical and regional comparison, Western welfare policy has reduced economic poverty to a minimum, but it has not been able to eliminate the marginalization of particular groups in many regards other than poverty; hence these groups have increasingly been subject to restitution attempts by social work. The crucial dierence between the welfare state and social work lies, according to Bommes & Scherr (2000b: 75), in the extent of generalizability. Whereas social security programs apply to anybody in a standardized way (mainly dened by legally determined claims to benets), social work is a secondary safeguard (Scherr, 1999: 21) which becomes active only for individual cases that fall outside the regular security mechanisms. These cases cannot be resolved by standardized measures but require specic, case-sensitive treatment by skilled, competent social workers. Accordingly, the task of organized help by social work cannot be feeding the poor, as was the case with Christian charity, but more specically the management of social exclusion (Scherr, 1999: 18) in concrete cases. Exclusion management involves working on the social addresses of individuals with the aim of improving their attractiveness to other social systems, a (re)orientation towards being includable (e.g. teaching an illiterate person to read and write, oering mediating therapies and consultation to clients). In this context, Peter Fuchs speaks of social work as re-organizing addressability (Fuchs, 2000: 162). There are three types of exclusion management. First, individuals whose inclusion in (some) social systems is problematic or precarious (e.g. ex-convicts on probation, undisciplined pupils, undocumented workers) receive exclusion prevention (Bommes & Scherr, 2000a: 76; Miller, 2001: 108). The second type, inclusion mediation, focuses on individuals who have (temporarily) lost their social addresses in some social contexts but who want to and, in principle, can be prepared for re-inclusion (e.g. cured long-term sick patients, soon to be released prisoners, clean ex-drug addicts). The third type refers to individuals who, for whatever reasons, have no prospect of regular inclusion; for these cases, social work oers exclusion administration (Bommes & Scherr, 2000a: 76; Miller, 2001: 108), e.g. creating new ways of inclusion beyond societal contexts such as special housing, special schools, psychiatric wards, and retirement homes. The latter examples indicate that in modern society exclusion hardly ever means total exclusion from society. Most exclusions are transformed into (other kinds of) inclusions. For instance, criminals are excluded from most parts of society but at the same time included in prisons, corrective educational institutions, or psychiatric wards. There they do not simply receive an address; on the contrary, they receive a very clearly dened address with a very specic role. Generalizing from this particular context, we can speak of exclusion roles. As roles are typical forms of inclusion, this term seems paradoxical: exclusion as a specic form of inclusion. However, this form of inclusion is dierent than regular inclusion in function systems and organizations. Alongside those already mentioned, there are other examples of exclusion roles such as beggar, homeless person,

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illiterate, illegal immigrant, etc. All of them are excluded from at least one of the vital social realms (the economy, housing, education, or the political system). In contrast to being excluded, an exclusion role is not simply the product of exploitation, marginalization, discrimination, or poverty but should instead be seen as a kind of regulatory mechanism of modern society, which in most cases gives the person a special status. It lies in the nature of the specic normative and semantic stock of social work5 to regard these exclusion roles as candidates for help and support. Social work transforms problems of inclusion/exclusion into cases of individual neediness (Bommes & Scherr, 2000a: 76), depending on whether they are considered legitimate recipients for help or not (Baecker, 1994; Luhmann, 2005b). According to Fuchs, the main communicative operation of social work is to declare cases (Fuchs, 2000: 165), thereby transforming needy individuals into clients. Client is the exclusion role of an individual included in the context of social work. The role of the client is in fact the layman role of social help. This is the very mode by which social work includes persons in its specic way of operation (declaring cases as clients and treating them by helping). In that way, social work makes excluded individuals (who lack social addresses in other contexts) communicatively relevant by providing them with their own social address.6 Although inclusion in the context of social work may be the better alternative compared to complete exclusion (and the risk of starvation), it should not be confused with inclusion in other function systems or organizations. Social work can manage and restore the addressability of its clients by mediating education, healthcare, therapy, consultation, etc. In this way, it can help its clients regain attractiveness and communicative relevance to function systems and organizations, improving their chance of inclusion. However, social work itself cannot include clients in these other systems (Fuchs, 2000: 161; Wirth, 2009: 414); this will be done by the respective systems themselves or not. Inclusion in social help via the layman role of client then is a substitutional inclusion (Baecker, 1994: 103; Bommes & Scherr, 2000a: 76), substituting for regular inclusion in function systems and organizations. Social work is successful at the very moment substitutional inclusion is no longer necessary, that is, when a client regains his/her addressability for other social systems. This has the paradoxical consequence that inclusion as a client (which itself is an exclusion role), in case of successful intervention, is turned into exclusion work from social help (Fuchs, 2000: 165). If, however, the inclusion of an individual remains substitutional, and as Baecker sharply concludes, inclusion has to be seen as failed. . .the question then is only to what extent and how long society can bear failed inclusion (Baecker, 1994: 103).

Conclusion
In this article, we presented a theoretization of the distinction between inclusion/ exclusion based on Niklas Luhmanns theory of social systems. The high complexity of Luhmanns theory made it necessary for us to elaborate extensively on the

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background in the theory of societal dierentiation and communication theory. In our view, the insights provided by the Luhmannian approach are highly relevant for social work: neither can one simply assume that exclusion is bad and inclusion good nor is exclusion per se the problem and inclusion the solution. Sometimes inclusion itself can be the source of a clients problems and exclusion might indeed be a (partial) solution. Inclusion and exclusion are operations of social systems that treat human beings as relevant addresses for communication. In modern, functionally dierentiated society, people are included in many dierent social systems but only partially (while being excluded from the rest). Inclusion, therefore, always necessitates exclusion; neither is there total inclusion nor exclusion. Luhmannian systems theory can give a clear and accurate description of what social work can (and cannot) do in terms of inclusion/exclusion. Social work becomes active when inclusion in function systems that are vital for social existence (for the economy, education, health, etc.) fails. The purpose of social work is addressability management, i.e. to make individuals whose inclusion in function systems and organizations is at stake relevant as social addresses. Like other systems, social work has its own mode of inclusion: it holds people relevant to its own operations as clients. Luhmann scholars in the academic eld of social work speak of substitutional inclusion because social work substitutes for clients inclusion in other systems by temporarily including them in the context of social help. If social work successfully fulls its tasks, clients should regain their addressability and attractiveness for function systems and organizations. However, it should be noted that social work cannot include human beings in any other system. Social workers need to take into account that the conditions for inclusion are system-specic, i.e. they are different for dierent social systems, and they may lead to dierent outcomes. Problematic cases of inclusion/exclusion can be analysed with regard to the involved social systems (function systems and organisations) and their specic conditions for inclusion/exclusion. Accordingly, successful interventions can be tailored to the specic constellation of system requirements and clients preconditions. The purpose of this article was to lay out the theoretical premises of the Luhmannian approach to inclusion and exclusion and its potential for social work, both the academic discipline and the practical eld. This was necessarily on a very general and abstract level covering the unity of the highly dierentiated eld of social work. Future research has to show what this looks like on more concrete levels in the various specialties of social work practice. Acknowledgements
The authors want to thank Lars So rnsen and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on a previous version of this article.

Funding
This research received no specic grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-prot sectors.

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Notes
1. Upper case letters refer to the academic discipline of social work; lower case letters refer to the practical field of social work. 2. This and the following translations from German are made by the authors. 3. Bardmann and Hermsen (2000: 90) comment somewhat ironically: This has not only been regarded as an unnecessary complication of the theoretical landscape, it has primarily been evaluated as an unforgivable attack on the individuality of the human subject. 4. Sometimes, the latter are also called audience roles or complementary roles. 5. Up to now, there has been disagreement as to whether social work constitutes a function system (Baecker, 1994; Fuchs, 2000; Hillebrandt, 2010) or not (Bommes & Scherr, 2000b; Scherr, 1999). For the present article, this question is of minor importance. 6. This address, however, brings some disadvantages to individuals who carry the label of neediness since it stigmatizes and (perhaps falsely) indicates future or even permanent neediness, dependence, etc. which communicates unattractiveness to organizations.

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