The Cultural Memory of Society

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  • Title: The Cultural Memory of Society: A Systems Theoretical Approach
  • Author(s): Yunus Yoldaş, Özlem Becerik Yoldaş
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies
  • Keywords: Niklas Luhmann, Theory Systems, Culture, Memory, Society
  • Volume: 11
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2014
  • ISSN: 2327-0055 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2376 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Yoldaş, Yunus, and Özlem Becerik Yoldaş. 2014. "The Cultural Memory of Society: A Systems Theoretical Approach." The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies 11 (4): 21-27. doi:10.18848/2327-0055/CGP/v11i04/43749.
  • Extent: 7 pages


The concept of "culture" originated historically in Niklas Luhmann’s 18th century theoretical systems analysis. With the exception of symbols or values, distinctions and comparisons play a vital role in the core of the modern concept of culture. In the interest of comparisons, everything is perceived as culture by compared observation. Thus, the concept of culture in Luhmann’s sense is an invention of communication that he calls "semantics". Luhmann defines culture or semantics as a stock of "subjects", whose social systems can help them. To Luhmann, society’s modes of communication produces culture. In the context of culture, Luhmann refers to the memory of society. Culture is perceived as the memory of modern society and social systems, which acts as a filter of obsolescence or memory. Memory distinguishes the function of the present, past, or future and does not act as merely an archive for the storage of knowledge. The aim of this paper is to analyze Luhmann’s cultural theory in depth and to outline how the concept of memory systems, individual memory, and political memory differ.