Hating Luhmann

Kieran Healy quotes the following bit (and a little more) from what seems to be the preface of the English edition of Social Systems (Soziale Systeme), by far the most painful book I've ever had to read. It is not, mind you, called "preface". It is called “Instead of Preface to the English Edition”:
[W]hen the highest imperative is rigor and precision, it makes good sense to allow ambiguities to stand, even deliberately to create them, in order to indicate that in the present context further distinctions or specifications are not important.
I have two positive things to say about this. One, it sums up the man's work better than any other single sentence I could think of. Two, it appropriately prepares you for a book on the first few pages of which the author, among other things, informs you that he will speak of social systems when he encounters such qualities in the absence of which he would not speak of social systems and then goes on to torture the reader for about 700 pages, each of which takes an intelligent, sociologically trained reader about five minutes to get through - often to find that the author cloaked some rather trivial idea in his lofty opaqueness. When Healy writes that reading something like this makes him want to "beat [the author responsible] to death with a copy of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding", this, presumably is just a figure of speech. I, however, remember that back then I developed rather concrete scenarios involving me, a certain thinker from Bielefeld, and a lot of blood. And I'm one peaceful motherfucker, me.

One day I might climb up into the attic and recover my notes from those days to post the best bits. That would be a piece in German, though. Off to watch the footie now. There'll be no new posts over the weekend.

1 comment:

Francesc said...

SS is one of the best books ever and Luhmann my favourite Author.