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Adorno, Luhmann, and the Critique of Identity: Some Internal Connections

Laurindo Dias Minhoto (University of São Paulo, Brazil)
Lucas Fucci Amato (University of São Paulo, Brazil)

Planetary Sociology

ISBN: 978-1-80043-509-4, eISBN: 978-1-80043-508-7

Publication date: 5 May 2023


We argue that aspects of the Luhmannian strand of systems theory could be mobilized in a crypto-normative way for an immanent critique of certain trends in contemporary social development, especially the growing economic determination of different spheres of life and the formation of sectorial industries – such as healthcare, education, crime control, etc. – with the consequent erosion of the autonomy of these spheres and the progressive exhaustion of social conditions for the exercise of freedom and the experience of difference.

A decisive step in this approach to systems theory lies in the indication of certain “elective affinities” between Luhmann and Adorno, reinforcing the plausibility of an internal connection between these different theoretical conceptions – not their mere instrumental appropriation and external juxtaposition. From this point of view, we argue that aspects of Luhmann's conceptual construction – notably the way the system-environment relationship is thought – hold a strong family resemblance with the Adornian mode of conceiving the subject–object relationship in the speculative key of negative dialectics.

Conceived as a critical model that modulates society's real abstractions toward difference and systemic autonomy, and especially as a critical model that underlines possibilities of reciprocal mediation between system and environment, systems theory seems to emphatically put itself in tension with what, at least in part, could be seen as its other: neoliberal governmentality, the generalization of the commodity form and the instrumentalization of the individual by unilateral systemic imperatives in global capitalism.



Minhoto, L.D. and Amato, L.F. (2023), "Adorno, Luhmann, and the Critique of Identity: Some Internal Connections", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) Planetary Sociology (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 40), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 251-266.



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