Niklas Luhmann expressed puzzlement that his work was not well or extensively received in the Anglophone world, especially because he saw himself working within an American tradition characterized by cybernetics and scientific complexity theory. Yet the late twentieth-century intellectual ground was not fertile for his brand of social theory. By and large, nonquantitative social theory was no longer welcome in sociology departments. By opposing the ideology critique of the Frankfurt School tradition, Luhmann branded himself “conservative.” And, unlike the kinds of theory prevalent in the humanities (e.g., deconstruction), Luhmann never advanced his ideas with close readings of classical texts. Nevertheless, underneath the dissonance of the theoretical language that he used, the resonance with “postmodern” trends was profound, and a small but persistent cohort of scholars continues to engage in the literal and figurative translation of his work in the United States and the Commonwealth.

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