A Sociological Theory Of Communication


Networks of communication evolve in terms of reflexive exchanges. The codification of these reflections in

language, that is, at the social level, can be considered as the operating system of society. Under sociologically

specifiable conditions, the discursive reconstructions can be expected to make the systems under reflection increasingly

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Networks of communication evolve in terms of reflexive exchanges. The codification of these reflections in

language, that is, at the social level, can be considered as the operating system of society. Under sociologically

specifiable conditions, the discursive reconstructions can be expected to make the systems under reflection increasingly


This sociological theory of communication is founded in a tradition that includes Giddens' (1979) structuration theory,

Habermas' (1981) theory of communicative action, and Luhmann's (1984) proposal to consider social systems as self-organizing.

The study also elaborates on Shannon's (1948) mathematical theory of communication for the formalization and

operationalization of the non-linear dynamics.

The development of scientific communications can be studied using citation analysis. The exchange media at the interfaces of

knowledge production provide us with the evolutionary model of a Triple Helix of university-industry-government relations.

The construction of the European Information Society can then be analyzed in terms of interacting networks of communication.

The issues of sustainable development and the expectation of social change are discussed in relation to the possibility of a

general theory of communication.

Author Biography: Loet Leydesdorff (Ph.D. sociology, M.A. philosophy, and M.Sc. biochemistry) is Senior Lecturer at the Department

of Communication Studies of the University of Amsterdam. He has published in the philosophy of science, social network

analysis, scientometrics, and the sociology of innovation. His studies of communication in science, technology, and

innovation enabled him to specify theory and methods for understanding the dynamics of knowledge-based development.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781581126952
  • Publisher: Universal-Publishers.com
  • Publication date: 1/20/2001
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 1
1.1 'Self-organization' 2
1.2 Self-organization remains a hypothesis 11
1.3 A hypothesis refers to a theory 13
1.4 The 'self-organization' paradigm in sociology 17
1.5 An example: 'interpenetration' 21
1.6 The re-entry of time into the representation 26
1.7 The progam of studies 30
Part 1 Sociological Reflections
2. Towards a sociological theory of communication 35
2.1 Uncertainty, information, and meaning 38
2.2 Giddens' structuration theory 44
2.3 Self-organization theory 49
2.4 Luhmann's restriction 54
2.5 The social system and biological autopoisesis 55
2.6 Habermas' objection 58
2.7 Language 62
2.8 Infrareflexivity 67
2.9 Communication of 'information' in messages 71
2.10 What is evolving? 74
3 The evolution of communication networks 79
3.1 The perspective of social systems theory 80
3.1.1 The methodological basis
3.1.2 Human communication
3.1.3 The status of the observables
3.2 Communication and communication systems 90
3.2.1 Variation and selection
3.2.2 Stabilization, self-organization, and globalization
3.2.3 Complexity among systems
3.3 The evolutionary perspective 105
3.3.1 Complexity in the time dimension
3.3.2 Inter-system dependencies
3.4 Conclusions 113
3.5 Excursion on the possibility of artificial evolution 114
4. The non-linear dynamics of sociological reflections 117
4.1 The evolutionary need for reflections 118
4.2 The duality of social communication 120
4.3 The regime of modernity 123
4.4 The endogenous character of technological change 126
4.5 Differentiation among reflexive discourses 128
4.6 The 'duality' in sociological understanding 130
4.7 Implications for sociological theorizing 134
4.8 Conclusions 136
Part 2 Is Society a Self-Organizing System? 139
5. New perspectives on empirical theories 143
5.1 Four models of 'structure'/'action' contingencies 142
5.1.1 The aggregation hypothesis
5.1.2 The hypothesis of 'unintended consequences'
5.1.3 Symbolic interactionism and the situational approach
5.1.4 Systems theory in sociology
5.2 The model of parallel and distributed processing 155
5.2.1 The operational independence of the social system
5.2.2 The networks network, and the actors act
5.2.3 The role of the network
5.2.4 Interpenetration operationalized
5.3 The local and the global network 165
5.3.1 Hierarchy and heterarchy in the network
5.3.2 Heuristic functions of the model
5.3.3 Algorithms of parallel and distributed processing
5.3.4 'Meaning' at the level of the network
5.4 Summary and conclusions 175
6. A Triple Helix of university-industry-government relations
6.1 Functional versus institutional differentiation 178
6.2 The 'scientific-technical revolution' (1870-1890) 180
6.3 Complexity within scientific communication 182
6.3.1 Annotations, references, and citations
6.3.2 The modern 'citation' as a complex index
6.3.3 The latency of the cognitive dimension
6.4 Complexity at the level of society 191
6.4.1 Horizontal and vertical couplings
6.4.2 Translation systems
6.5 Emergence and drifts of trans-epistemes 202
6.5.1 The techno-sciences
6.5.2 Economic consequences
6.5.3 Policy implications
6.6 Conclusions 209
7. The European information society 213
7.1 The EU-Network Systems 215
7.2 Methods and data 217
7.2.1 Data
7.2.2 Methods Longitudinal studies Functional versus national differentiation
7.3 Results 224
7.3.1 The European monetary system
7.3.2 The European publication system
7.3.3 The case of 'biotechnology'
7.4 Conclusions 233
8. Regime changes and sustainable development 235
8.1 The paradigm shift 236
8.1.1 Ex post and ex ante
8.1.2 Second-order dynamics
8.2 Prediction in second-order systems theory 245
8.3 Consequences 248
8.3.1 The carrying capacity of second-order systems
8.3.2 Sustainability of technological solutions
8.3.3 Trajectories and regimes
8.3.4 Sub-optima, hill-climbing, and changes of regime
8.4 Conclusions 258
Part 3 Philosophical Reflections 261
9. Uncertainty and the communication of 'time' 263
9.1 The construction of the modern cosmology 266
9.1.1 'Uncertainty' in the new philosophy
9.1.2 'Time' in the new philosophy
9.2 'The time of the Lord is the best of all times' 272
9.3 The deconstruction of the modern cosmology 275
9.3.1 'Uncertainty' as the 'substance' of communication
9.3.2 The probabilistic interpretation of communication
9.4 The self-organization of uncertainty 281
9.4.1 Interaction among communication systems
9.4.2 Extension in the time dimension
9.5 The study of complex dynamics 289
9.6 Towards a general theory of communication? 292
10. The expectation of social change 297
10.1 The post-institutional perspective 299
10.1.1 'All that is solid melts into air'
10.1.2 The linguistic turn
10.1.3 Retention
10.2 Exclusion and the new social movements 314
10.3 Knowledge-based development 318
Bibliography 323
Author Index 343
Subject Index 347
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