Systems, Network, and Culture

Soziale Systeme: Zeitschrift fuer soziologische Theorie, Vol. 15, pp. 271-287, 2009

17 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2011

Date Written: June 9, 2009


The paper compares social systems theory and social network theory in terms of what it is they respectively seek to elucidate. Whereas systems theory focuses on problems of difference and reproduction, network theory deals with problems of identity and control, the former privileging communication and the latter action. To understand their different foci, it may help to keep in mind that systems theory is a child of computing's formative years, whereas the more recent success of network theory, despite its roots in a far older tradition, accompanies the advent of the Internet. The paper goes on to compare the two theories with respect to questions of mathematical modeling, culture, and self-reference, which interestingly are closely related. It concludes by referring to Bronislaw Malinowski's 'scientific theory of culture' to propose a mathematical modeling of culture, which uses George Spencer-Brown's notion of form to combine variables of communication, consciousness, and life into one network relying on three systems capable of reproducing themselves.

Keywords: culture, network, system

Suggested Citation

Baecker, Dirk, Systems, Network, and Culture (June 9, 2009). Soziale Systeme: Zeitschrift fuer soziologische Theorie, Vol. 15, pp. 271-287, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Dirk Baecker (Contact Author)

Witten/Herdecke University ( email )



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