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About the Catjects Project

The Catjects Project presents and explores catjects as a means of cultural analysis, relying on a culture theory which understands culture as the product and condition of a complex mutuality and polycontexturality of different observers (such as minds, bodies, machines, swarms, nets, encounters, or organizations) emerging from each others second-order observation. Catjects are neither subjects nor objects but categories underlying the differentiation and reproduction of specific types of communication. They are modeled as ‘forms’ as understood by the calculus of indications developed by George Spencer-Brown. Such forms are concatenated distinctions used by observers observing each other to produce and reproduce their world.

The Catjects Project aims at answering Niklas Luhmann’s question of what the culture form of next society may consist in. After having boundaries as the culture form of tribal society, telos, of ancient society, and equilibrium or restless self-reference, of modern society, we might have to deal with complexity as the culture form of next society. Trying to invest into the development of a theory of next society we may try to become accomplices in complexity, folding distinctions within distinction.

Note, however, that the question of the culture form of next society is an open one. There are many possible candidates, ranging from Shannon’s information and Weaver’s complexity to Bateson’s play, Goffman’s frame, von Foerster’s observer, Luhmann’s system, White’s network, and Spencer-Brown’s form.

The Catjects Project aims at combining a culture theory of next society with, on one hand, a pragmatic calculus of communication, pursuing Paul Watzlawick’s idea of how to distinguish, and recombine, digital and analog communication, and, on the other, a complexity understanding of management relying on the dynamics of second-order observation.

For a start, see the papers:

  • Dirk Baecker, “Niklas Luhmann in der Gesellschaft der Computer”, in: Merkur 55, Juli 2001 (reprinted in: Dirk Baecker, Wozu Soziologie? Berlin 2004; french transl. in: MANA: Revue de Sociologie et d’Anthropologie 12-13, 2003, 141-161: english transl. in Cybernetics & Human Knowing 13, 2006, 25-40, available at
  • Dirk Baecker, “The Network Synthesis of Social Action”, Part I: Towards a Sociological Theory of Next Society, and Part II: Understanding Catjects,  in:Cybernetics and Human Knowing 14, 2 (2007) 9-42, and 15, 1 (2008), 45-65, available at, Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Dirk Baecker, “Communication With Computers, or How Next Society Calls for an Understanding of Form”, in: Soziale Systeme 13, 1+2 (2007) 409-420, available at

See more working papers and accepted papers at Social Science Research Network.

Conferences and Workshops:

  • Conference “Theorie der Form”, Hamburg, October 17-19, 1991
 (supported by Thyssen Stiftung)
  • Conference “Management Out of Systems and Networks”, Witten, April 5-6, 2001
  • Workshop “Systems and Mathematics: Workshop on Cognition, Mathematics and Language in Social and Economic Systems”, August 13-14, 2008
  • Workshop “Social Form”, March 4-6, 2010
 (supported by DFG) pdf
  • Workshop “The Mathematics of Form”, Mai 31-Juni 1, 2011 (supported by DFG) pdf


  • Die Form des Unternehmens (1993)
  • Ed., Probleme der Form (1993)
  • Ed., Kalkül der Form (1993)
  • Ed., Problems of Form (1999)
  • Exercises 1: Postheroisches Management (1994), Organisation als System (1999), Organisation und Management (2003), Die Sache mit der Führung (2009), Organisation und Störung (2011)
  • Exercises 2: Wozu Kultur? (2000), Wozu Systeme? (2002), Wozu Soziologie? (2004), Wirtschaftssoziologie (2006), Wozu Gesellschaft? (2007), Wozu Theater? (2013), Wozu Theorie? (2016)
  • Exercises 3: Vom Nutzen ungelöster Probleme (mit Alexander Kluge, 2003), Nie wieder Vernunft (2009) and current journalism
  • Form und Formen der Kommunikation (2005)
  • Studien zur nächsten Gesellschaft (2007)
  • Beobachter unter sich: Eine Kulturtheorie (2013)
  • Neurosoziologie: Ein Versuch (2014)
  • Kulturkalkül (2014)
  • Produktkalkül (2017)
One Comment
  1. I’m new to your body of [ work | knowledge ] …

    I’m enjoying what I’ve found so far …

    I like ‘catject’ as a noun …

    I note your interest in culture …

    My interest is applying [ your | luhmann | beer | pask et al ] work to [ the | an ] emerging phenomena of [ mass education | glocalised communities of common interest ] …

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