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Soziale Systeme

Zeitschrift für soziologische Theorie

Ed. by Åkerstrøm Andersen, Niels / Baecker, Dirk / Bohn, Cornelia / Kron, Thomas / Mascareno, Aldo / Rasch, William / Schmidt, Johannes F.K. / Stäheli, Urs / Stichweh, Rudolf / Tang, Chih-Chieh

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Are There Still Indispensable Norms in Our Society?

Niklas Luhmann
Published Online: 2016-05-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sosys-2008-0103


In his Heidelberg University lecture of 1992, the author uses an ail-too prescient torture scenario to exam the function and putative indispensability of norms in modern society. In the exceptional case, recourse to the »normativity of norms« or to »values« proves to be untenable because all norms and values reveal themselves to be undecidable. Viewed from within the legal systems, the validity of norms remain unquestioned, but viewed from »society« (by, say, the sociologist), norms are seen as social facts and thus open to discussion. The author works his way through many permutations of the torture question (»Would you do it?«) not to give us a normative answer to the problem, but to exemplify the seeming impossibility of reasonably expecting that any given legal norm is normatively indispensable.

About the article

Published Online: 2016-05-27

Published in Print: 2008-05-01

Citation Information: Soziale Systeme, Volume 14, Issue 1, Pages 18–37, ISSN (Online) 2366-0473, ISSN (Print) 0948-423X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sosys-2008-0103.

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© 2008 by Lucius & Lucius, Stuttgart.

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