Self-Description, Self-Deception, Simulation. A Systems-theoretical Perspective on Contemporary Discourses of Radical Change

Ingolfur Blühdorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In advanced modern societies ecological integrity, democratic renewal, social inclusion and global justice are non-controversial collective concerns. The ecological, economic, social and political unsustainability of the present arrangements is largely uncontested. Demands for radical societal change as they have once been articulated by the counter-cultural new social movements seem to have been fully mainstreamed. At the same time, however, there is an unprecedented consensus of defence reinforcing the established system of liberal consumer capitalism. What is required in order to make sense of these evident contradictions is a theory of late-modern society's discourses of radical change. New social movement theory (NSMT) can neither explain the mainstreaming of the supposedly subversive discourses of radical change nor their relationship towards the firmly established consensus of defence. A critical review of Niklas Luhmann's systems theoretical analysis of protest communication paves the way towards an interpretation of contemporary discourses of radical change as a particular form of societal self-description that functions as a means of societal self-deception: late-modern society uses the form of simulation in order to stabilize and reproduce at the same time the unsustainable status quo and the belief in the radical alternative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2007

Keywords

  • Niklas Luhmann
  • radical change
  • politics of simulation
  • Protest movements
  • systems theory

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