Gazing into World Society: A System-Based Approach to Global Governance

The recent global polycrisis, ranging from the United States – China trade war to the Russia-Ukraine war, has ushered in a new zeitgeist of de-globalization within the Western world.  An acute tension emerges between de-globalists and globalists.  The root of these diverging views on globalization is that each camp makes sense of the world from its own perspective.  In particular, traditional Western scholars are besotted with methodical individualism and therefore often mistake a histo-structural shift for a matter of agency, such as policy choices.  While this agential framework may provide a rigorous micro analysis on a particular event, they are hardly capable of presenting a big macro picture.  This Article seeks to remedy this theoretical deficiency by drawing on Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory.  The systems theory postulates that world society qua system is comprised of different subsystems, such as politics and economy, which are operationally closed (autopoeitic) yet cognitively open (structurally coupled) to each other.  It demonstrates how these different subsystems may observe, and construct, different realities, such as globalization and de-globalization, based on each unique operational logic.  This Article makes a critical observation that such functional differentiation increases complexities within world society and render it vulnerable to inter-systemic tensions.  It also explores various ways in which law may manage these complexities and tensions.  This Article concludes that the evolution of world society does not necessarily guarantee a teleological progress and that as complexities increase we must become inured with inevitable uncertainties.