In Niklas Luhmann’s social theory, autopoiesis is the repeated work of human self-construction through which social and cultural forms are maintained against a background of their continuous dissolution and disappearance. Autopoiesis in this sense is the production and reproduction of the human world through which the human body constitutes and reconstitutes itself by making the raw material of the world fit the requirements of the body and its organs. Human production thus makes the world present to the human body and its parts such as we see in the examples of the supermarket which brings together the products of the world in one space for our visual and manual convenience and the domestic television set which literally brings home to us the distant happenings of the world. Human systems and institutions can thus be seen as means for making the world’s materials fit the human mind and body and for ensuring their continuous presence as meaningful forms. But, significantly, the production of presence depends on absence, disappearance and decay. Absence has to be seen as a major force in human production; it is the missing presence that haunts all human work and which helps us to understand the development of such modern production methods as mass production and information technology.
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