Bielefeld University acquires and indexes Niklas Luhmann's unpublished works
Promising basis for a Luhmann Archive
Many consider the sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927–1998) to be one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century. In 1968, he became the first ever professor at Bielefeld University where he taught until his retirement in 1993. Even just in terms of size, Luhmann's exceptionally challenging scientific work is enormous, encompassing a good 50 of his own books and hundreds of articles in which he comprehensively developed his theory of social systems. One secret behind Luhmann's productivity is certainly his legendary "card box".
Bielefeld University has acquired Luhmann's comprehensive scientific papers along with this card box. With the help of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach Foundation and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft [German industry initiative for promoting science and learning], Bielefeld University is now setting up a Luhmann archive and systematically indexing his papers. Under the scientific guidance of Professor Dr. André Kieserling, himself a student of Luhmann and the second successor to Luhmann's chair, this will also include the publication of several book manuscripts – some of which are almost completely publication-ready, whereas others are still in need of a stronger degree of editing. These are particularly early works of the great systems theorist. However, they are not just of historical interest – quite the opposite according to Kieserling: "With these unpublished works, it looks as if the early Luhmann will be competing strongly with the later one!"
The card box should also not just be a museum exhibit. Kieserling and his colleagues intend to make it accessible to science – not just as an object of historical research but also as a basis for further advances in systems theory. This initially calls for a transcription of the hand-written cards followed by a form of publication (possibly electronic) that will retain Luhmann's own complex system of cross references between the cards.
Rektor Professor Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer underlined the fundamental significance of the Luhmann archive for Bielefeld University: "I am proud and pleased that this legacy is to remain where it belongs: in the place where Luhmann worked for more than 25 years. Bielefeld University can guarantee that the papers will be processed continuously by highly qualified experts – thereby ensuring the continuing productive debate on his unique works!"