Release | An allergy of society: on the question of how a societal lockdown becomes possible

Purpose: Given the form of functional differentiation of modern society, a far-reaching coordination of functional systems as a dissolution of their heterarchical relationship to each other, as was apparently possible in the social “lockdown” during the corona pandemic, should have been extremely unlikely. The purpose of this study is to explain how this was nevertheless achieved.
Design/methodology/approach: From the perspective of systems theory, social action in principle does not present itself as a problem but as a solution to (latent) social problems. In the sociological analysis presented here, it is therefore precisely a matter of uncovering or pointing out those (changed) social structures in which a social “lockdown” appears as a solution.
Findings: The paper explains that with the emergence of social media through applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, a new force is establishing itself at the level of society as a system. It is one that is characterized by being highly vulnerable to moral communication. A susceptibility to morality manifests, on the one hand, through an individual differentiation of society made possible by social media – for example, in the emerging Chinese social credit system – and, on the other hand, through the specific communicative structures of the social media themselves. It is argued that social media, in the form of a moral authority with a lasting effect on society as a whole, make a significant contribution to realizing the social “lockdown.”
Originality/value: The originality of the paper results from the fact that the emergence of a new social phenomenon (“lockdown”) is explained.

The ahead-of-print version of this article is available for download here.

Keywords: Communication technologies, Systems theory, Social systems, Social networks, Second-order cybernetics, Autopoiesis.

Recommended citation: Räwel J. (2021), An allergy of society. On the question of how a societal “lockdown” becomes possible, Kybernetes, ahead-of-print, DOI: 10.1108/K-11-2020-0797.

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