Social Immune Mechanisms: Luhmann and Potentialization Technologies

Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen, Paul Stenner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Contemporary discourses of management are full of encouragements to ‘expect the unexpected’ and to celebrate ‘the future of the future’. Many new public managerial technologies of change – such as steering labs, future games, and managerial performance arts – promise the co-creative ‘potentialization’ of employees, citizens and organizations. This paper approaches such potentialization technologies as immune mechanisms which serve to protect the social system from itself. From a perspective inspired by autopoietic systems theory, potentialization technologies provide autoimmunity by problematizing institutional structures and providing ‘anti-structural’ space-times to facilitate transformation. There is a price to pay for this immune function, however, since these immune mechanisms cannot discriminate between productive and unproductive structures. By dissolving the certainty of the expectations that underlie the connectivity of diverse organizational operations, they risk harming the welfare systems that host them.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)79-103
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: September 5, 2019


  • Liminality
  • Management
  • Niklas Luhmann

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