Heet en niet te blussen | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 47, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1384-6930
  • E-ISSN: 1875-7286


Too hot to handle: conflicts as performative communication systems, a Luhmannian perspective

In this article we argue that conflicts evolve as self-referential and performative communications. Instead of the conventional actor centric approach, we propose a perspective in which we follow conflicts in themselves. Inspired by Niklas Luhmann’s social system theory, we argue that conflicts function as heated and parasitic communications like meadow fires. Once a conflict bursts, it is hard to stop since everything in its environment can become fuel and increase its intensity. We explain how conflicts become persistent, what the role of actors and discourses are in its environment, and reflect on its reality effects. We conclude with a set of recommendations about how one correspondingly can deal with conflicts. For instance, by deliberately not engaging with conflicts. Or, if we do decide to engage, then we should try to understand the history of a conflict emergence next to its parallel positioning to other communications.


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