Law as an Autopoietic System

  • John Mingers
Part of the Contemporary Systems Thinking book series (CST)


The application of autopoiesis to law has developed from Luhmann’s work on social autopoiesis, described in Chapter 8. As we saw, he analyzed society into a number of different functional subsystems, each based on a particular mode of communication. One of these was law. Luhmann had developed a sociology of law, published in 1972 as Rechtssoziologie, before he utilized autopoiesis. An English translation appeared in 1985 (A Sociological Theory of Law), and this contained an extra chapter incorporating the basic notions of autopoiesis. Since then Luhmann has written further papers (1985c, 1987b, 1987c, 1989, 1992a, b); the idea has been taken up especially by Teubner (1984, 1987b, 1987c, 1989, 1990, 1993) and has generated a good deal of controversy (Teubner 1987a; Cardozo Law Review 13(5), 1992; Amselek and Mac-Cormick, 1991) within law. Teubner has applied it to the problems of legal regulation (1985, 1987d), Power (1994) to accounting and the environment, and King and Piper (1990) have explored this characterization of law in a book about how the law “thinks” about children.


Legal System Legal Norm Legal Person Structural Coupling Normative Expectation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Mingers
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryEngland, UK

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