Observing International Relations draws upon the modern systems theory of society, developed by Niklas Luhmann, to provide new perspectives on central aspects of contemporary world society and to generate theoretically informed insights on the possibilities and limits of regulation in global governance.
The authors develop a Luhmannian theory of world society by contrasting it with competing notions of international society, critically discussing the use of modern systems theory in international relations theory and assessing its treatment of central concepts within international relations, such as power, sovereignty, governance and war.
1. Introduction Part 1: Luhmann and IR: A worthwhile encounter? 2. On the Modern Systems Theory of Society and IR: Contacts and disjunctures between different kinds of theorizing 3. Politics, Modern Systems Theory and the Critical Purpose of International Relations Theory 4. 'Corpus Mysticum': Niklas Luhmann's evocation of world society Part 2: Competing Notions of World Society and World Society as the 'Largest Social System Possible' 5. The 'English School' and World Society 6. Sociological Institutionalism and the Empirical Study of World Society 7. World Society from the Bottom Up 8. World Society, Systems Theory and the Classical Sociology of Modernity Part 3: Bringing Modern Systems Theory to the study of IR: Concepts and questions 9. Systems and Sovereignty: A systems theoretical look at the transformation of sovereignty 10. 'World Opinion' and the Turn to Post-sovereign International Governance 11. Society's War: The evolution of a self-referential military system 12. Organizations in/and World Society: A theoretical prolegomenon 13. Governance in a World Society: The perspective of systems theory 14. Constructivism and International Relations: An analysis of Luhmann's conceptualization of power15. Concluding Remarks