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Systematizing Democratic Systems Approaches

Seven Conceptual Building Blocks

Rikki Dean, Jonathan Rinne, and Brigitte Geissel

The notion that democracy is a system is ever present in democratic theory. However, what it means to think systemically about democracy (as opposed to what it means for a political system to be democratic) is under-elaborated. This article sets out a meta-level framework for thinking systemically about democracy, built upon seven conceptual building blocks, which we term (1) functions, (2) norms, (3) practices, (4) actors, (5) arenas, (6) levels, and (7) interactions. This enables us to systematically structure the debate on democratic systems, highlighting the commonalities and differences between systems approaches, their omissions, and the key questions that remain to be answered. It also enables us to push the debate forward both by demonstrating how a full consideration of all seven building blocks would address issues with existing approaches and by introducing new conceptual clarifications within those building blocks.

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From Organisms to World Society

Steps toward a Conceptual History of Systems Theory, 1880–1980

Julian Bauer

This article proposes to analyze the idea of organism and other closely related ideas (function, differentiation, etc.) using a combination of semantic fields analysis from conceptual history and the notion of boundary objects from the sociology of scientific knowledge. By tackling a wide range of source material, the article charts the nomadic existence of organism and opens up new vistas for an integrated history of the natural and human sciences. First, the boundaries are less clear-cut between disciplines like biology and sociology than previously believed. Second, a long and transdisciplinary tradition of talking about organismic and societal systems in highly functionalist terms comes into view. Third, the approach shows that conceptions of a world society in Niklas Luhmann's variant are not semantic innovations of the late twentieth century. Rather, their history can be traced back to organicist sociology and its forgotten pioneers, especially Albert Schäffle or Guillaume de Greef, during the last decades of the nineteenth century.

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Milja Kurki

literatures on the Anthropocene, posthumanism, ecologism, and complex systems theory have been for some years trying to “help” the humans to rethink their condition in open systems. Below I suggest they also help us start to rethink democracy and possibly the

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Jan Ifversen

. Events must have a quality of being almost instantaneous and therefore carry their own temporal logic. We should therefore distinguish between those discontinuities, ruptures, or irritations that have sometimes been termed events in system theory, and the

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Timo Pankakoski and Antto Vihma

-twentieth-century systems theory, as did the concern with integration. Following Durkheim’s initiative and addressing its shortcomings explicitly, Talcott Parsons identified the differentiation of societal subsystems, such as economy, politics, or norm systems, as a key

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Distributional Concept Analysis

A Computational Model for History of Concepts

Peter De Bolla, Ewan Jones, Paul Nulty, Gabriel Recchia, and John Regan

Julian Bauer, “From ‘Organisms to World Society’: Steps toward a Conceptual History of Systems Theory, 1880–1980,” Contributions to the History of Concepts 9, no. 2 (2014): 51–72, here 54; José María Rosales, “Liberalism's Historical Diversity: A

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Stefan Nygård and Johan Strang

frameworks naturally affect how the predicament of being on the edge is analyzed. In world-systems theory, for instance, where the focus is on power and dominance, the peripheries are not seen so much as lagging behind as subordinated by the interests of the