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Cultural Sociology

http://cus.sagepub.com/ 'After Luhmann': Dirk Baecker's Sociology of Culture and Art


Rudi Laermans Cultural Sociology 2011 5: 155 DOI: 10.1177/1749975510389918 The online version of this article can be found at: http://cus.sagepub.com/content/5/1/155

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Article

After Luhmann: Dirk Baeckers Sociology of Culture and Art


Rudi Laermans

Cultural Sociology 5(1) 155165 The Author(s) 2011 Reprints and permission: sagepub. co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1749975510389918 cus.sagepub.com

Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

Abstract
The German sociologist Dirk Baecker is one of the most prominent voices within contemporary social systems theory and German sociology, but is not well known within the wider circles of international sociology. He follows in the footsteps of Niklas Luhmann, yet in marked contrast with his sociological master Baecker also gives ample attention to the notion of culture. This paper first summarizes some of the main lines in his writings on the notion of culture and on contemporary culture. It then continues with a succinct presentation of Baeckers approach to artistic communication against the background of this more general characterization of the relationship between the individual and society, conscious sensory perception and communication, in terms of an aesthetic coupling. It will be shown that a recurrent figure of thought links up Baeckers various considerations on culture and art, i.e. the inclusion of the excluded.

Keywords
cultural sociology, cultural theory, German sociology, sociology of art, sociology of culture, sociology of values, systems theory

Introduction
Cultural sociology today enjoys a steady increase of academic attention and legitimacy. The cultural dimension, however defined, is nowadays researched and theorized by a vast number of sociologists. Witness the strength of the culture section of, for instance, the American Sociological Association, or the variety of themes discussed in this journal. Yet several new approaches within general or theoretical sociology do not position the notion of culture as a central one. More particularly, it does not play a significant role in the work of the three most influential sociologists who, together with the more cultureminded Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens, have proposed new ways to conceptualize
Corresponding author: Rudi Laermans, Centrum voor Sociologisch Onderzoek (Centre for Sociological Research), Parkstraat 45, Bus/Box 03601, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. Email: Rudi.Laermans@soc.kuleuven.be

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the social: Bruno Latour (2005; Actor-Network Theory), Niklas Luhmann (1995a; social systems theory) and Harrison C. White (1992; network theory). There indeed exists a relative hiatus between the recent cultural turn within sociology and a relatively outspoken tendency within theoretical sociology to do away not only with the concept of culture but also with the insights that were traditionally associated with it (such as the idea that values co-structure social situations and interaction). Cultural sociologists may either negate this gap or take it up as an irritation that can incite one to observe blind spots and to think differently. Yet why should we try to build bridges with them? Why can they not give a helping hand to us? As far as social systems theory in the Luhmannian vein is concerned, the German sociologist Dirk Baecker (b. 1955) does effectively reach out towards cultural sociology. Luhmann himself never showed much interest in the notion of culture, which resulted in the coinage of a series of conceptual equivalents for the dominant meanings that the concept has acquired within the social sciences (see Burkhart and Runkel, 2004; Laermans, 2007). Baecker does not share Luhmanns aversion and has published many essays that testify to an enduring interest in the possibilities of a systems-theoretically inspired re-articulation of the concept of culture. He actually also holds a chair for cultural theory and analysis at Zeppelin University, a recently founded private university in Friedrichshafen, after teaching sociology for many years at the University of Witten/ Herdecke. Nevertheless, Baecker is not only active within the field of cultural sociology, in the broad sense (including the sociology of the arts). He has also published widely within the domains of social theory, economic sociology and the sociology of organizations and management. Baecker is indeed a prolific writer: he is the author of 20 books and has edited or coedited 21 volumes. With the exception of Problems of Form (Baecker, 1999), all these books are only accessible in German. Baecker has also published several articles in English on social systems theory and, more recently, on network theory, which have established him as a leading figure within the rather restricted international community of systems theorists (for a complete list of his publications, see his homepage: www. dirkbaecker.com). Yet, although his writings definitely deserve a wider audience, their overall influence remains limited to the German-speaking world in which he is also a leading intellectual. Baecker is indeed not only a strikingly productive scholar but also combines his academic activities with a career as an essayist and columnist who regularly contributes to the feuilleton-pages of several German newspapers (a recent collection is the voluminous Nie wieder Vernunft [Never Again Reason]; Baecker, 2008a). In this article, I will concentrate on Baeckers contributions to the sociology of culture and the arts. In the first section I present the main lines of his approach to culture. I therefore focus particularly on Wozu Kultur? (Why Culture?), a collection that brings together his most substantial articles on culture (Baecker, 2000). Now and then I shall connect the arguments in this book to his more recent publications, some of which are more extensively discussed in the second section on Baeckers considerations on contemporary culture. In the concluding section I briefly present Baeckers approach to artistic communication against the background of his more general view of the relationship between the individual and society, conscious sensory perception and communication. A distinctive trait of Baeckers writings is his consequent use of the laws of form that

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George Spencer-Brown (1969) described in the book of the same name. The book has a cult reputation among systems theorists and is rather difficult to digest. In his writings on culture, Baecker does not employ the formal notation proposed by Spencer-Brown. He nevertheless often alludes to or even makes an explicit use of the concept of form. The latter refers to a two-sided distinction (e.g. this/that) of which one side is effectively employed to mark something (e.g. it is this) and the other side remains unmarked. A form is thus the unity of the difference between a marked inside and an unmarked outside. We will see that Baecker is particularly interested in the paradoxical re-entry of the outside in the inside within the overall functioning of a culture as well as in artistic communication. What this actually comes down to will hopefully become more clear as the paper proceeds.

Culture as Comparison and Memory


It is rather typically Dirk Baecker not to start from a substantive definition of culture. In Wozu Kultur?, the question is not what is culture?, he argues, but what is observed under the title of culture within modern society and what is observable as culture (Baecker, 2000: 83). This stance actually refers to the so-called second order cybernetics that Heinz von Foerster (1981) developed during the 1970s and which has vastly influenced systems theory. Whereas first-order observations operate in a realistic mode (one for instance defines what culture really is), second-order observation is a matter of observing first-order observers and their conceptual distinctions as well as their blind spots. In line with this approach, Baecker asks what is implied when the modern concept of culture that was coined within anthropology and historiography is put to use, and this regardless of eventual differences in definition. Inspired by Niklas Luhmanns only essay on the subject, Baecker argues that the notion of culture primarily involves an act of comparison: Culture is that which makes incomparable ways of living comparable (Baecker, 2005a: 47; cf. Luhmann, 1995b). The notion therefore doubles everything. Thus the habit of drinking beer remains what it always was but may be simultaneously observed as a distinctive cultural trait that distinguishes a beer-drinking culture from a culture that values wine. This comparative perspective logically implies a relativistic outlook: every culture is contingent; every cultural trait is only a possible and not a necessary feature. Nevertheless, the notion of culture is often used in order to stress the uniqueness and historical unavoidability of a particular way of life. Observing culture is synonymous with observing cultural differences, yet in a second stage the concept of culture hides its operation by not stressing comparison but the incomparable, not doubt but identity, not the arbitrary but the authentic (2000: 50). Comparing various ways of living is of course not only the trade of social scientists. Again and again, human beings have stumbled upon others with different ideas or customs, and this increasingly in modern (colonial) times. Baecker therefore follows Gregory Bateson (1972: 6172), who in his seminal essay Culture Contact and Schismogenesis puts forward the thesis that a culture emerges out of the contact between different ways of living. Before the latter there only existed a life-world that was experienced as natural. This way of living transforms into a culture and starts to observe itself as singular through the contrastive comparison with another life-form. Or as Baecker (2008a: 34) writes:

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Culture is a product of second order observation. One discovers and observes that others observe differently. This implies that ones cultural identity is indeed genuinely schizoid since its presumed singularity and authenticity are co-defined by the witnessing of another culture. The native is infected by the foreign (Baecker, 2000: 17): the members of a culture know that there exist others who cherish different values and act differently. They will eventually defend their culture, yet according to Baecker something sociologically more profound is at stake in this kind of immune reaction. For people say culture but they actually mean social order. In Baeckers view, one of the latent functions of a culture is precisely to highlight the precariousness and uncertainty of a social order in such a way that it becomes likely and legitimate to take defensive measures in the name of our culture. In a word, a culture represents within a social order this social order as being threatened and worth conserving (Baecker, 2000: 37). This sounds indeed familiar in the light of the recent culture wars fought out in many western countries between old and new citizens. Although Baecker starts on a second-order level that allows him to analyze the modern notion of culture accordingly, he also uses a more substantive definition of culture. More particularly, he regards a culture as primarily consisting of values or normative orientations. It is certainly a Parsonian as well as a Weberian trace in his writings on culture, yet in marked contrast with Talcott Parsons he does not regard culture as genuinely controlling or steering social action (see Parsons and Shils, 1952; cf. Baecker, 2000: 8997 on Weber; and Baecker, 2000, 2004b: 133140 on Parsons conceptualization of culture) Within communication, values such as equality or fairness are routinely assumed as being self-evident and indicate what is considered to be important and what not, yet without ruling out the possibility to take up the less important as the more important if the situation asks for it (Baecker, 2005b: 144). Excluded values are thus included as virtually valuable in view of unexpected situations or the legitimization of unusual actions. In a short essay on the dominant German culture, Baecker (2008a) therefore asserts that it circles around three core values and their counterparts. Hostility towards foreigners, romanticism and a preference for technically solvable problems are the leading values, yet cosmopolitanism, rationalism and the acknowledgement of a technically uncontrollable complexity also define German culture. Eventually one may also stress the value of ones religion or of ones region, but again with the proviso that particular circumstances or actions can render the opposite valuation plausible. Understood as a paradoxically constituted value canon in which every core value is affirmed with reference to its possible negation, German culture also functions as a selfdescription of German society on the one hand and as a form of memory on the other. Next to the idea that modern culture has to do with comparison, and therefore with identity and difference, the functionalist description of culture in terms of a two-sided memory that recalls and forgets values is a second recurrent theme in Dirk Baeckers considerations on culture (Baecker, 1997, 2000, 2008b). The work of Niklas Luhmann (1995b, 1997) is once again the direct source of inspiration, but Baecker gives a particular twist to the idea of culture-as-memory. Whereas Luhmann tends to emphasize the production of communicative evidences by means of the usually implicit recall and confirmation of, for instance, already known values, Baecker stresses the importance of

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the foregrounding of possibilities of normative orientation or interpretation that are momentarily excluded in communication. This does not contradict his other statements on culture as a form of comparison or on culture as consisting of values. Alternative viewpoints may indeed be precisely put forward by either invoking the counter-values that always accompany the core values of a cultural canon, or by re-activating in a critical way the original cultural operation of comparison. In the latter case, one takes into consideration the fact that another culture observes differently and combines some of these differences with a positive valuation. In both instances culture-as-memory plays out variety against a fixed identity. As a particular kind of memory, every culture is indeed anything but a passive archive, and must rather be understood as a testing operation that allows one to observe and value the existing [action] programs (and therefore so-called traditions) in the light of new information (Baecker, 2000: 157). Although Baecker sometimes tends to overstress the critical or deconstructive function of culture, partly under the influence of the writings of Jacques Derrida (e.g. Baecker, 2000), he does not deny that values or normative orientations also play a regulating and coordinating role in social action. He is nevertheless of the opinion that culture does not steer action or communication in a direct way, for instance by means of internalized values and norms that give rise to mutually fitting social expectations (a la Parsons). It is just highly implausible to presume that social actors are guided by normative orientations in every moment that they interact with each other. Therefore the concept of culture can be distinguished from the notion of society, (Baecker 1997, 2000). Whereas the latter points to the actual continuation of social action, which often necessitates improvisation, the former refers to the distinction between correct and incorrect action. Culture thus frames the conditions of correct or preferred social action, but at the price of recalling the possibility of incorrect or non-preferred action. This brings us back to the reflexive function of culture: momentarily negated possibilities are re-entered in social action as genuine options in the near future. This reflexivity may be reduced in the name of value conformity, yet it is impossible to avoid: For culture cannot do otherwise than to take along with the reference to the proper, the correct, the own, the identical and the authentic the difference with the improper, incorrect, other and copied, thus reproducing the risk of infection (Baecker, 2000: 154).

The Fate of Culture in Global and Postmodern Times


Baecker approaches culture as a form, in the meaning that George Spencer-Brown (1969) gives to this notion. The concept of culture points to a difference with two sides, of which one is marked (i.e. the dominant values or normative orientations) and the other is unmarked but nevertheless active. The unmarked side comprises other normative possibilities that either form the counterpart of the preferred ones or are derived from the comparative observation of a different culture. As a memory, culture is both the reproduction of the official values and the constant recalling of alternative options that make these values appear as contingent selections that may be put into question. This consequent differential approach of culture has the advantage that it connects the

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regulating and critical functions of a culture in one operation of memorizing that is continuously active in social action or communication. Yet, if one thinks this through, as Baecker (2000) effectively does, the ultimate question that culture raises is about whether one accepts or rejects the alternative between correct or incorrect behaviour, values and counter-values, or more generally identity and difference. This brings Baecker to the conclusion that culture is by way of saying the third value that has become universal, the tertium datur as protest against everything that society thinks it can bring in the form of either/or (Baecker, 2000: 106). In a recent essay on the contingency of world society, Baecker (2008b) supplements his earlier considerations on culture as a form of comparison and memorizing in a twofold way. On the one hand, he introduces an evolutionary dimension by pointing out that retained cultural variations or innovations must be understood in the context of their interplay within the difficult-to-disentangle knot formed by variations in social, mental and organic life (see also Baecker, 2009). This basically comes down to the idea that cultural elements are variables whose particular values are framed by the values of three other variables. The interest in evolutionary matters is a new theme in Baeckers writings; it therefore remains open how he will develop it in future. On the other hand, Baecker connects the idea of culture-as-comparison with the process of globalization or the coming-into-being of a world society. The world of the world society is that horizon for comparing local with global possibilities that provides in situ the selectivity of every communication and action with a knowledge of alternatives, (Baecker, 2008b: 158). This was already the case within colonial modernity, yet the consciousness that ones value preferences are contingent in the light of other cultures has changed within the context of a world society marked by subsequent waves of immigration towards the West on the one hand and a much denser network of globally circulating information on the other. Nowadays, intercultural contacts have become a daily reality for a growing number of people. One just has to walk around the block if one lives in a multicultural neighbourhood or engage in a dialogue with ones children, in order to stumble over vast differences in lifestyle that one cannot easily understand. The world culture of world society can perhaps be best understood as a resource for incomprehension, (Baecker, 2008b: 161) concludes, with the kind of irony on which social systems theorists seem to have a patent. Therefore, the notion of culture increasingly transforms into passe partout formula for the coding of actions or communications whose meaning one does not immediately grasp. One falls back on culture in order to find a mode of understan ding when dealing with obscure differences in socialization, education, confession, affluence and knowledge, (Baecker 2000: 18) already noted in one of the essays collected in Wozu Kultur? Culture becomes a leading semantic as well as a generalized mode of observation within world society. One of the implications is that cultural differences are no longer primarily regarded as expressing national or territorial differences. Another, and more important, consequence is the reflexive affirmation of cultural traits as well as the public discussion of cultural differences on the basis of the observation that they are contingent. The former may be done with more or less irony, yet the decisive point is that within contemporary world society the reality of cultural distinctions is transformed into the designation of these differences (Baecker, 2000: 24).

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Baecker (2000) sees a new meta-culture in the making that uses cultural differences reflexively and less in the mode of the self-evident. More and more we inhabit a paradoxical culture in which we still take certain values as obvious but simultaneously appreciate the questioning of every form of doxa, particularly within the realm of the arts and professional cultural labour. Now and then Baecker also uses the notion of a postmodern culture that would be characterized by a high degree of distrust, even a polemical attitude towards the dominant cultural codes (see also Baecker, 2008a). In modern culture, the comparison of ways of living went hand in hand with a permanent cultural critique by general intellectuals of their native cultures and of modernity at large; on the contrary, postmodernity favours the play with all kinds of codes in view of their hybridization (the postmodern artist or the postmodern academic la Jacques Derrida), their breakdown (the figure of the hacker) or their renewal (the recoding of the financial economy via all sorts of new products). Postmodern culture is thus not only a matter of making comparisons but is also characterized by the testing or making of new communication chances via the deepening of cultural fissures and uncertainties on the one hand and the invention of new coding possibilities on the other. In short, it is a culture of rigorous experiments with coding techniques and recoding latitudes (Baecker, 2008a: 79). More recently, Baecker has started to explore the consequences of the observation that we live in a digital culture or a society in which communication is more and more mediated by computer networks (see Baecker, 2007a, 2008a). He speculates that a new culture-form (Kulturform) is emerging that will supersede in the next society its modern forerunner.1 Baecker defines the notion of culture-form with regard to the fact that every medium of communication creates many more communicative possibilities than may be momentarily actualized. A culture-form does not restrict these possibilities but offers a general formula that allows one to deal with this overflow. Thus, within modernity, possibilities are primarily processed according to the culture-form of balancing. This is particularly clear within the realm of the economy: the option for risky possibilities, for instance when deciding on investments, is balanced by the selection of rather safe possibilities. This kind of risk calculation can also be found in the domains of politics, scientific research, the arts, and so on. In the wake of the recent spreading of the computer as a prime medium of communication, the culture-form of balancing has all but disappeared, yet is more and more accompanied by a new one. The emergent culture-form primarily refers to the impossibility to know how a computer grid actually computes the information we take up in an ensuing communication or action. Or as Baecker (2007a: 38) writes: The computer co-communicates insofar as his data management, his search programmes, his representations of web pages, his expert systems . . . are subjected to algorithms that we can neither consciously nor socially look through. Notwithstanding the claim that we are entering a knowledge society, our growing dependency on computer meditated information and communication implies that we are exposed to an irremediable non-knowledge. The decisive point is that we simply do not know what we do not know: we have to take into consideration an indeterminate outside that is constitutive for the inside which contains the information we momentarily process. In Baeckers view, precisely this unity of the difference between knowing and not-knowing, or

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between a marked and an unmarked side, defines the culture-form that will become dominant in the next society.

The Aesthetic Question: Communication and Art Reinterpreted


Baecker is also the author of a highly readable short guide to the main intuitions behind Niklas Luhmanns social systems theory that is of particular relevance for the sociology of the arts. It is aptly titled Kommunikation (Communication) and is anything but a straightforward student guide to Luhmanns work (Baecker, 2005a). Indeed, Baecker does not present step-by-step the main concepts of Luhmanns theory but uses the aesthetic question as the leading reference point in his exposition. The notion of aesthetics stems from the Greek word aesthesis, which points to the act of perceiving, feeling or sensing. This meaning was taken up by Alexander Baumgarten and Immanuel Kant during the 18th century in view of a new discipline that would focus on both sensory experience, in particular of art works or beauty, and its translation into words or language (in Kants approach, this comes down to the formulation of judgements). Yet it rapidly became clear that the utterance of sensory perceptions is anything but evident, because of the unbridgeable gap between individual experience and language or any other medium of communication. Baecker shows how this tension became constitutive for every theory of communication on the one hand and the functioning of modern art on the other. From now on, the aesthetic understanding of communication is burdened with the paradox of the only communicative accessibility of that which is not communicatively accessible (Baecker, 2005a: 28). Individuality differs from communication to such an extent that we have to make do with two separate realities. Individual consciousnesses or bodies are closed entities that go on with making their own thoughts or experiences when participating in communication. Consciously experienced sensory perceptions can therefore never be directly stated but may only become the subject or theme of communications that refer to previous or upcoming communications. This very same communicative context shows how information is publicly i.e. not in the non-accessible private mind understood and further processed. Although individuality is time and again addressed and discussed in communication, individuals indeed do not steer the communication process, since the meaning of every individual statement depends on the ensuing communications of other participants (whose statements are also contextualized by following statements, and so on). As Baecker (2005a: 63) writes: Communication is defined by the fact that, in the light of the closed nature of individuals, it places a social event instead of the transfer of messages. Precisely the last observation grounds within Niklas Luhmanns approach the difference between social systems, consisting of nothing but self-referentially enchained communications on the one hand, and psychic and organic systems on the other (see Luhmann, 1995a, 1997). An individual may than be re-described as a structural coupling of one consciousness and the several organic systems that make up a human body. Nevertheless, the sociologically decisive point remains the operative difference between the processing of thoughts by a psychic system, including conscious sensory

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experiences, and the processing of bit of information or utterances by a social system. Every uttered bit of information will be interpreted selectively by the participating minds, but from a social point of view only the understanding indicated by following communications is of importance. At the same time, every communication process requires for its functioning a coupling to perceiving individuals, since social systems do not dispose of the faculty of sensory perception (as communications do not hear or read other communications). Thus the very same feature that communication excludes is also its condition of possibility. Baecker (2005a: 84) therefore speaks of the solely aesthetic coupling of individual and society. More generally, communication is an operation that includes the individual as excluded (p. 68) a formulation that once again invokes the paradoxical form of an included outside we already know from Baeckers considerations on culture. The inclusion is vastly regulated by the communicative context or social system in which an individual participates. Our individuality is indeed highly selectively addressed and claimed in different social positions. Thus the individuality that is relevant within medical or economic communication greatly differs from the individuality required by intimate communication. Also in the latter, every participating individual mind and body remains an autonomous, operatively closed system. Friends or lovers can only communicate verbally and non-verbally about themselves but not directly bring their thoughts or emotions into communication. The mutual self-communication may of course give indications about a persons individuality, yet his or her feelings, sensory experiences and other mind-states remain non-transparent. In relation to the selves of the participants, Baecker (2005a: 76) ironically concludes that communication comes down to the interpretation of murmur. There also exists within modern society an autonomous realm of aesthetic communication. Viewed from a systems theoretical point of view, the latter expression describes the basic operation that defines the modern art system. Baecker (2004a, 2004b, 2007b, 2008a) has written many essays on art, some of which are included in his various collections of personal essays.2 Notwithstanding the insightfulness of several of these writings, his probably most concise and clear statement on the subject is his article Die Adresse der Kunst (The Address of Art) (1996). In line with Luhmanns (2000) considerations on art, Baecker describes all artistic communication as addressing the difference between communication and sensory perception. Art works seize the eye and/or the ear by means of the materiality of words, colours, sounds, moving images, and so on, in view of the communication of meaningful information. Yet in contradistinction to entertainment, they do no try to simulate the possibility of an actually impossible unity of communication and the conscious processing of sensory experiences. They rather irritate perception as well as understanding by offering percepts that may not be immediately grasped, thus stressing the difference between perception and communication. This is also true for novels or poetry, since literature uses language in such a way that the reader observes the difference between his or her conscious associations that the words evoke and their eventual meaning in the context of a story or a poem. Baecker (1996: 100) speaks of a halting of communication: the artwork simulates that it is a thing its its own, self-identical perceptibility which may offer consolation and courage to the human beings exhausted by communication. In another essay, he succinctly characterizes art in a comparable way

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as establishing that perceptible meaning that finds its meaning rather in the perceptibility than in meaning itself (Baecker, 2004a: 49). Artistic communication foregrounds the aesthetic coupling of the individual and society, that usually remains implicit in all sorts of communication. It is a highly paradoxical form of communication since it explicitly re-enters the individual outside into the communicatively created inside. This figure of thought of the inclusion of the excluded can also be found in Baeckers characterization of the culture-form of the coming society.3 Indeed, he circumscribes it as the inclusion of an excluded nonknowledge into ones knowledge: one has to take into consideration ones proverbial idiocy regarding computer algorithms as the condition of possibility of the processed knowledge or information. I have already emphasized that this very same form, in the Spencer-Brownian sense, very much informs Baeckers considerations on culture, since he understands it as a memory that not only continuously highlights or remembers particular values but also simultaneously evokes the non-preferred normative orientations. We may also conclude that the figure of the inclusion of the excluded is an underlying form in Baeckers work. Its inspiring character undoubtedly lies in the often surprising ways in which its author uses this form for the interpretation of more particular phenomena. My synthetic introduction cannot do justice to this richness, but it may perhaps incite some readers who read German to become more acquainted with an original voice within social and cultural theory. It would of course also be helpful if a selection of Baeckers essays on culture and art were translated into English. Notes
1. Baecker borrows the expression the next society from Peter F. Drucker, who published in 2001 an article with that title in The Economist (cited in Baecker, 2007a: 8) 2. Together with Luhmann, Baecker also contributed an essay on architecture to a book that partly honours the paintings of Frederick D. Bunsen (see Luhman et al., 1990). 3. Readers who are well versed in contemporary socio-political theory will note that the very same figure of the inclusion of the excluded is also central in Giorgio Agambens (1996) considerations on the relation of exception and the state of exception.

References
Agamben, G. (1996) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Baecker, D. (1996) Die Adresse der Kunst, in J. Fohrmann and H. Mller (eds) Systemtheorie der Literatur, pp. 82105. Munich: Wilhelm Fink. Baecker, D. (1997) The Meaning of Culture, Thesis Eleven 51: 3752. Baecker, D. (ed.) (1999) Problems of Form. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Baecker, D. (2000) Wozu Kultur? Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos. Baecker, D. (2004a) Wozu Soziologie? Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos. Baecker, D. (2004b) Kulturelle Orientierung, in G. Burkart and G. Runkel (eds) Luhmann und die Kulturtheorie, pp. 5890. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Baecker, D. (2005a) Kommunikation. Leipzig: Reklam. Baecker, D. (2005b) Form und Formen der Kommunikation. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Baecker, D. (2007a) Studien zur nchsten Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Baecker, D. (2007b) Wozu Gesellschaft? Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos.

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Baecker, D. (2008a) Nie wieder Vernunft. Kleinere Beitrge zur Sozialkunde. Heidelberg: Carl-Auer Verlag. Baecker, D. (2008b) Zur Kontingenzkultur der Weltgesellschaft, in D. Baecker, M. Kettner and D. Rustemeyer (eds) ber Kultur. Theorie und Praxis der Kulturreflektion, pp. 13962. Bielefeld: Transcript. Baecker, D. (2009) Systems, Network, and Culture. Paper presented at the International Symposium Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences, Berlin, 256 September. Available at http://www.dirkbaecker.com Bateson, G. (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press. Burkart, G. and Runkel, G. (eds) (2004) Luhmann und die Kulturtheorie. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Laermans, R. (2007) Theorizing Culture, or Reading Luhmann against Luhmann, Cybernetics & Human Knowing 15 (2/3): 6783. Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Luhmann, N. (1995a) Social Systems. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Luhmann, N. (1995b) Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik: Studien zur Wissenssoziologie der modernen Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Luhmann, N. (1997) Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Luhmann, N. (2000) Art as a Social System. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Luhmann, N., Bunsen, F.D. and Baecker, D. (1990) Unbeobachtbare Welt: ber Kunst und Architektur. Bielefeld: Haux. Parsons, T. and Shils, E. (1952) Values, Motives, and Systems of Actions, in T. Parsons and E.A. Shils (eds) Toward a General Theory of Action, pp. 47278. New York: Harper & Row. Spencer-Brown, G. (1969) Laws of Form. London: Allen & Unwin. Von Foerster, H. (1981) Observing Systems. Seaside, CA: Intersystems. White, H.C. (1992) Identity and Control: A Structural Theory of Social Action. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Rudi Laermans is Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. He is author of several books in Dutch as well as numerous articles in sociological theory, cultural sociology and sociology of the arts. Among his most recent articles are Dance in General, or Choreographing the Public, Making Assemblages, Performance Research (2008) and Framing the Sovereignty of the Democratic State Sociologically, in Globalization and the State, edited by Willem Schinkel (2009). He is currently writing a book on contemporary dance. He serves as a board member of the Research Network Sociology of Culture of the European Sociological Association after being its first chair and co-founder.

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