Addressing Modernity

Social Systems Theory and U.S. Cultures

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Volume Editors: Hannes Bergthaller and Carsten Schinko
Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems is one of the most ambitious attempts to create a coherent account of global modernity. Primarily interested in the fundamental structures of modern society, however, Luhmann himself paid relatively little attention to regional variations. The aim of this book is to seek out modernity in one particular location: The United States of America. Gathering essays from a group of cultural and literary scholars, sociologists, and philosophers, Addressing Modernity reassesses the claims of American exceptionalism by setting them in the context of Luhmann’s conception of modernity, and explores how social systems theory can generate new perspectives on what has often been described as the first thoroughly modern nation. As a study of American society and culture from a Luhmannian vantage point, the book is of interest to scholars from both American Studies and social systems theory in general.

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“[…] Addressing Modernity delivers ample proof that systems theory is a potent but still underrated contender in the theoretical repertoire of American Studies. The editors have initiated a transatlantic dialogue among Americanists that promises to open up fertile ground for further reflection and discussion.” - Alexander Starre, Berlin, in: Amerikastudien / America Studies 59.1 (2014)
Hannes Bergthaller and Carsten Schinko: Introduction: From National Cultures to the Semantics of Modern Society
Literary Observations
Martin Klepper: The Emergence of Literature as Art and the Refinement of Literary Perspective
Christoph Reinfandt: Reading the Waste Land: Textuality, Mediality, Modernity
Edgar Landgraf: Black Boxes and White Noise. Don DeLillo and the Reality of Literature
Systemic (Dis-)Closures
Hans-Georg Moeller: Who is Afraid of Arnold Schwarzenegger? Absurd Democracy in the United States
Michael Boyden: The Semantics of Self-Denial: The New American Studies through the Lens of Luhmann’s Social Systems Theory
Urs Staeheli: Nation of Speculation: The Construction of a Financial Public in 19th Century America
Semantics of Individualism
Gert Verschraegen: Institutionalised Individualism. Parsons and Luhmann on American Society
Rodrigo Jokisch: Why Did Luhmann’s Social Systems Theory Find So Little Resonance in the United States of America?
Ulrich Brinkmann: Drawing out the Reader: Tourism, Literature, Individuality
American Holographics
Bruce Clarke: Steps to an Ecology of Systems: Whole Earth and Systemic Holism
Andrew McMurry: The System in the Garden: American Studies and Functional Differentiation
Joseph Tabbi: World-Systems Colliding: Thomas Pynchon and Niklas Luhmann
Carsten Schinko: Conclusion: Luhmann, Literature, and American Multiculturalism