One of the most underused, undervalued and misunderstood social theories of the 20th century is undoubtedly social systems theory, launched by the late Niklas Luhmann, in his pioneering Social Systems, conceived in the early eighties. We argue that Luhmann’s understanding of society as a collection of highly interdependent and highly specialized self- reproducing autopoietic social systems, with communications as their elementary components, can elucidate strengths and weaknesses of spatial planning and design in a profoundly new and productive manner. Luhmann is particularly helpful in understanding institutional change, and the complex role of planning as a coordination effort of many social systems (law, economics, science, politics, various organizations)

Cooperation with Gert Verschraegen, University of Antwerp, Raoul Beunen, Martijn Duineveld, Roel During, Wageningen University, Joren Jacobs, Nijmegen University, Anna- Katharina Hornidge, Anastasyiah Shtaltovna, ZEF/ Bonn University.

A paper in Planning Theory, on the limits of planning and the use of social systems theory in the analysis of planning and planning ambitions. We can also refer to the Innonet report Over goede bedoelingen en hun schadelijke bijwerkingen, and to the paper with Hans Leinfelder in Ruimte & Planning. Also in the Memory Studies paper systems theoretical concepts are used. A paper in Environment & Planning A uses a systems perspective to unravel the relations between law and planning in nature conservation.

I try to combine social systems theory with insights from post- structuralism, notably Foucault, and new institutional economics (North, Greif, Ostrom and others). This led to a report for LEI, the Dutch institute for agricultural and environmental economics, and to some of the work on Georgia (such as the papers in Planning Practice and Research and in Planning Perspectives). Also in investigations on transition and innovation (several book chapters), one can find this combination of insights. The concepts of path- dependency and interdependence are useful in combining social systems theory and institutional economics, where informal institutions, and a notion of social construction, are generally acknowledged.

The same combination of social systems theory, institutional economics and post- structuralism underpins much of the work for ZEF/ Bonn University on Uzbekistan. (Among which the paper in Land Use Policy). More broad investigations into the dialectics of formal and informal institutions in planning, development and environmental policy adopt the same framework.

For full references and links see the Publications page.

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