Klett-Cotta-Verlag Psychology

Systemtheorie und Musik

Luhmanns Variante der Autonomieästhetik

März 1997, 1. Jahrgang, Heft 1, pp 13-34

Systems theory and music. Luhmann´s variant of an autonomous aesthetic

A discussion of the »systems theory« put forward by the sociologist Niklas Luhmann (University of Bielefeld Germany) with respect to the aesthetics and sociology of music is justified in two ways: On the one hand it is trying to meet the universalist claim to a modern »super theory«. On the other hand it seeks through its own contribution to join in the art-theoretical debate in the related science. In a first step the art-sociological dimension of the systems theory is expounded and developed on the basis of the general theory of social systems. Luhmann´s hypothesis is as follows: The general theory of social systems replaces the thinking in identities with the paradigm of the discrepancy of system und environment. This basic discrepancy is the fundamental prerequisite for the formation of autopoietic systems. Autopoietic systems generate their elements of which they consist through an implementation of the system/ environment discrepancy. Art is an autopoietic subsystem of society which reproduces itself i.e. its elements through the implementation of the specific discrepancy beautiful/ ugly. The basal elements of the system are works of art. These are not identities but programs of communication. In art communication as a basal element of the autopoies of social systems aggregates solely as an end in itself. Autonomous art thus seen as aesthetic communication is the paradigmatic fulfillment of society per se. In a second step the aesthetic capacity of the systems theory is insted under the concrete conditions of music and under the label of an autonomous aesthetic is subjected to first criticism. This critical reflection yields two results: The strength of Luhmann´s sociology lies in the theoretical and historical description of the process of the differentiation of art to an autonomous subsystem of society. The weakness of Luhmann´s aesthetics is that it restricts the general meaning of art and the specific meaning of individual works of art to their historical gain in autonomy.

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