Education as social system: from philosophical conceptualization to educational communication (version by Niklas Luhmann)




education, upbringing, social systems, autopoiesis, communication, sense, system, Niklas Luhmann


This article examines the issue of education from the point of the system theory of the modern German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. The main goal was to present arguments in favor of the possibility of education as a system, to describe its main functions and to highlight the problem of the medium. Firstly, the problem of translation of the German term Erziehung and its English counterpart Education was described; the existence of ambiguity, due to which it is possible in the context of the system theory to talk about both education and upbringing. Against this background, it was decided to use both terms as synonyms, bearing in mind their common meaning and the possibility of reverse translation. Then, by describing the main terms, Luhmann’s general understanding of the system theory and the system as a whole was given. Was mentioned such concepts as: distinguishing between the system and Umwelt, the phenomenon of self-reference and form. This gives rise to the second term – autopoiesis. The term was taken by Luhmann from the Chilean scientist Humberto Maturanа, the main point is in the special ability of systems to reproduce themselves from their own parts and to reproduce the parts themselves. A specific feature of autopoiesis is that it does not affect the final form. The phenomenon that provides autopoiesis is communication. It is possible because it is based on understanding and misunderstanding, which is found when distinguishing between message and information. From this constant distinction, sense is born. The possibility of understanding sense by a human, which is a psycho-physical system, is provided by structural coupling, openness of the system to external information. Based on this, we can describe the educational system. It is aimed at the formation and editing of the Person – a social symbol of communication. By providing each pupil with the same necessary knowledge, the education system thus increases the success of future communication. The medium that enables the system is the Pupil. However, significant social changes led to its reinterpretation and the emergence of a new term Lebenslauf, which causes problems in translation and interpretation.

Author Biography

Oleksandr Korol, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

Master’s student of the Faculty of Philosophy, specialty “Philosophy”


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How to Cite

Korol, O. (2024). Education as social system: from philosophical conceptualization to educational communication (version by Niklas Luhmann). Filosofiya Osvity. Philosophy of Education, 29(2), 160–174.






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