Japanese Sociological Review
Online ISSN : 1884-2755
Print ISSN : 0021-5414
ISSN-L : 0021-5414
Life Course as Medium
Reconstructing Niklas Luhmann's Education System Theory
Takashi YASUDA
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Keywords: life course, medium, Luhmann

2002 Volume 53 Issue 2 Pages 2-18


The objective of this paper is to examine the modification of Niklas Luhmann's education system theory and to take the first step toward its reconstruction. Luhmann once considered the “child” to be the medium of the education system, but late in his life he abandoned this view and substituted “life course” as the medium. By this redefinition he meant the following : in an age where mass media greatly increased the comparability of life course, “life course” as a medium conveys the significance of knowledge imparted to the individual in the education system, thereby fulfilling its function as, literally, a medium of communication.
On reflection, Luhmann's previous formulation that the medium of the education system is the “child” and that it does not possess a binary code should also be reconsidered. Luhmann thought that binary code exists in the selection process of the education system, but that it does not apply to the medium of education, that is, the “child” itself. However, not only is this idea not in accordance with the fact that it is impossible to educate without selection in Luhmann's sense, namely, evaluation in general, it also logically contradicts his general social system theory. Therefore, it is more appropriate to say that “life course” is the medium of the education system, and like the media of other functional systems, it also possesses a binary code, that is, a “promotive/preventive” code in the formation of the life course of the educated.

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