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Lecture Notes on Systems Theory Part 1

This piece of writing is meant as substitute for the class lecture that I was supposed to deliver and finish last Wednesday, September 29, 2010, but was cut short because of lack of time. A strong caution is in order: this is just a SKETCH of my incomplete lecture; this should NOT be taken as a formal essay that could be cited in a properly academic writing. In fact, I shall spoil now the seemingly formal presentation of this essay by saying that I will write in alternating English and Tagalog. Para siguradong maiintindihan, di ba? As I have mentioned in our last meeting, my final lecture would be necessarily long. Please have the patience to read, understand, and reflect on the ideas mentioned below not just for the purpose of review but for the sake of strengthening your fundamental knowledge in sociology. I shall discuss first the Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann, one of the best (German) sociologists of the past few decades. Next, I will outline a review of each of the social institutions that we have taken up in class and relate them to the theoretical framework of Luhmann. Afterwards, I will juxtapose the ideas of Durkheim, Marx, and Weber, with Luhmanns to demonstrate how Systems Theory explains the concepts and problems of classical sociology in an innovative way. Ipipresenta ko ang isang framework kung saan ma-i-integrate ang unay hiwa-hiwalay na talakayan natin tungkol sa bawat isang social institution. Last word of caution: what I wrote here does not contain proper referencing because I took the liberty of explaining them without the bureaucratic requirement of bibliographical citation. Halo-halo at patalon-talon ang order ng pagsusulat ko. Sa ganitong paraan lang ako makakapagsulat ng mabilis. I. Niklas Luhmann is famous for his reference to and insistence on the terms system and environment. He accepts the label of systems theory as designating his distinct set of ideas. His new concepts about society and the task of sociology challenge old notions such as the following. 1. Society is composed of human beings and their groupings relationships 2. Society is held by a consensus among its members 3. Society can be located within a particular (geographical) territory and

Binasag ni Luhmann ang mga lumang kaisipang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagreredefine ng lipunan o society bilang isang sistemaSystem of Communication. Ang ideya na ang lipunan ay isang sistema ay hindi na bago sa ating mga Pilipino. Nasa bokabularyo na natin ang mga katagang bulok ang sistema, maayos ang sistema, walang sistema, na madalas sa hindi ay pumapatungkol sa totality ng buhay natin dito sa Pilipinas. Madali sigurong tanggapin na ang lipunan ay isang sistema, pero bakit sistema ng komunikasyon? Alam na natin na ang tao ay isang social being. Likas na sa ating pagkatao ang makisalamuha sa kapwa tao. Think of socialization as the process of becoming a social being (human) as well as the action of mingling and INTERACTING with our fellows. Walang social life ang isang taong namumuhay bilang ermitanyo. Lahat tayo, one way or the other, ay kailangang makisalamuha at makipag-interact sa kapwa tao. Engels C. Del Rosario

Nangyayari ang interaction natin sa isat isa sa pamamagitan ng language. Dalawa ang uri ng language na ginagamit natin, ang verbal at nonverbal. Ano man ang gamitin natin sa dalawa, sa bawat interaction natin hindi maitatanggi na tayo ay nakikipag-communicate. Sa isang sitwasyon kung saan nagkakatampuhan ang dalawang tao, kahit ang katahimikan ay may ikonocommunicate (giving the cold shoulder pang-iisnab para iparamdam na hindi siya komportable sa presence ng kasama niya.) Samakatuwid, lahat ng human interaction ay communication din. Madali itong maunawaan kung isi-situate sa tinatawag na face-to-face o micro-level. Ngunit paano sa macro level? Applicable pa rin ba ang konsepto ng interaction as communication dito? Sa macro level, karaniwan na nating iniisip halimbawa na may nagaganap din sa pagitan ng simbahan at gobyerno, o kaya sa pagitan ng mga eskwelahan at business sector. Nagpupunahan ang gobyerno at simbahan sa mga isyung may kinalaman sa sex at reproductive health. Nagbubuo ng partnership ang mga paaralan at business community para sa educational reform o para sa training at recruitment ng mga magiging empleyado. In both examples, it can be said that the state and the church, for instance, are also interacting, although not in the same way with face-to-face or personal interaction. We dont need to specify whos doing the talking on either side because we take for granted that they really talk to one another. As representatives of particular social institutions (political and religious), the government and the church also communicate with one another. This leads to the point that all that happens in society is communication. Sa pagkakasundo man (business helping schools and vice versa) o sa pag-aalitan (the church criticizing the state and vice versa), parating ikino-communicate ang lahat. If we accept this explanation, then we should conclude that society is indeed nothing but communication. Luhmann thought that systems are systems because they distinguish themselves from things that are not systems. He called the not-systems as Environment. He said that every system distinguishes itself from an environment. There is another twist in his concept of system here. The system is not contained by the environment like a fish inside an aquarium or like a community in the middle of a forest. We can only see that there is a system and there is an environment once the system establishes itself against an environment. Ibig sabihin, nalalaman mo lang na may sistema kapag nalikha naestablish na ang pagkakaiba ng sistema at kapaligiran nito. Kung ikukumpara halimbawa sa identification ng kulay/shade/tint (warning: this is a nave analogy used for the sake of simplifying the idea), hindi mo malalaman na may black letters dito kung puro white lang ang nakikita mo, at vice versa. May nai-specify tayong kulay dahil ang kulay na yon ay distinct sa iba na hindi pareho ng kulay. Ang lipunan bilang isang sistema ay parang ganito rin. Ito ay may unique na character/feature/trait na nag-a-identify na ito ay lipunan at hindi pagkain (halimbawa). Natural, iba ang pagkain sa lipunan. Ang pagkain ay nakakain ang lipunan ay hindi. In an analogous manner, we can appreciate Luhmanns concept of society as system of communication by following through and through the identity of society as a communication system. It is where communication takes place. Communication does not take place in a cup of coffee or in a bowl of noodles. In the same way, humans are not communication. Humans can participate in communication because we are capable of linguistic activity, BUT they are NOT communication itself (just like the enrolment system, for example, Engels C. Del Rosario

is different and not identical with the enrollees or students). Luhmann, therefore, assigns human beings (the physical, conscious, thinking and feeling human being) outside of society. Human beings are the environment of society. This has a significant implication that I will discuss later on. Sa pangalawang ideya naman, na ang lipunan ay name-maintain dahil sa similarity ng paniniwala ng mga tao kung ano ang tama o mali (consensus, solidarity, moral bond, collective conscience), itinanong ni Luhmann kung paano ba naging posible at gaano ba kalawak ang sinasabing consensus? Isang basa mo lang sa kahit anong conflict theory ay makikita mo na ang consensus ay mahirap i-maintain dahil sa magkakaibang paniniwala at direct o indirect na pagsasalungat ng kanilang mga interes. Nandyan na ang ideya ng coercion, domination at social control na nagpapakitang hindi madali ma-maintain ang solidarity. In fact, conflict is also a major feature of social living. So how can we say that consensus is the foundation of society? Luhmann mentioned that agreements as well as disagreements (whether in peaceful or violent forms) both take place in society and in society only. One cannot argue and fight with a broken TV or curse nature for the disastrous floods. When humans love and hate, they communicate love and hate in society because it is only in society where communicate takes place. Neither the broken TV nor the forest will ever talk back to us. From this we can argue that society is maintained also by communication. As long as communication between human beings takes place society is alive. We can endlessly shout invectives in protest rallies or communicate our interest in destroying capitalism by firing guns at its defenders, but at the end of the day, on an abstract level, what took place was a communication of dissatisfaction or anger. Stillcommunication. Dalawa lang ang naisip kong paraan para mawala ang lipunan: ang matulog tayong lahat ng sabay-sabay (kung saan walang pagkakataon para sa verbal at non-verbal communication) o malipol ang lahat ng tao. Otherwise, magpapatuloy ang lipunan sa pag-iral habang may nag-uusap na mga tao, pareho man sila ng wika o hindi, magkabati man sila o magka-away. The third proposal, that society occupies a territory, is also dubious as far as systems theory is concerned. A system (such as society) remains a system because it works as a system wherever and whenever. We have noted before that society can be broken down into particular social institutions (family, economy, religion, law, etc.). It is quite easy to accept the idea that in todays (modern) world, everywhere you go there are institutions that enable and restrict your social behavior. In general, any country would have the same basic set of institutions. Our OFWs who go to, for instance, in the Middle East would have a hard time talking to Arabs because of language barrier, but they would find it easy to communicate that they want to use their money to buy things (economy), that they want to pray at their own churches (religion), that they can present valid travel documents to the host country (law), or that they can also fall in love (family). Sa madaling salita, kahit saan ka magpunta sa mundo may mga institutionalized behavior na ikino-communicate tayo na maiintindihan more or less ng mga dayuhan. Universal sa ganitong paraan ang mga institutions at syempre ang lipunan. Isa pang example (na nabanggit ko na sa klase) halimbawa ang edukasyon. May mga school buildings na nakalaan para sa educational at academic activities pero hindi totally necessary ang mga infrastructures na ito para mangyari ang teaching at learning. Alam na natin na kahit sa ilalim ng puno ng manga ay pwedeng magklase si teacher. Ang mahalaga lamang ay may gagampan ng role na teacher at role ng student. Engels C. Del Rosario

In summary, Luhmann proposes that we think of society as a system (of communication) whose environment are human beings; that (on an abstract level) communication is what keeps society going; and that society is everywhere and cannot be located in any particular place.

Engels C. Del Rosario