• Sverre Moe


The world society If we live in the world society, this must be the only society existing on earth today encompassing all kinds of social life on the globe; hence the ultimate reference of any sociological theory. It is no wonder then that most social theorists avoid the notion of a world society and prefer to speak in terms of ‘internationalisation’ and ‘globalization’. The article discusses four theories of the world society: functionalism (Parsons), world-system-theory (Wallerstein), neo-institutionalism (Thomas Meyer, etc.) and the theory of autopoietic social systems (Luhmann). The article argues that Luhmann managed to speak of a world society without merely reproducing traditional notions of society that imply homogeneity, unity, equality and centrality (as the other theories tend to do). In Luhmann’s view society must be understood in terms of communication, evolution and differentiation. Thus the world society is a functionally differentiated society that makes it possible to connect and synchronize communication anywhere on the globe with communication anywhere else. Luhmann’s notion of the world society should however be debated. For instance one can ask if he is emptying the concept of a “society” or how he can speak of the world society as a system.