Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) is, apart from Max Weber, the most important German sociologist of the 20th century. His social theory and theory of society, continuously developed over a period of 30 years, is internationally outstanding. The extensive body of Luhmann’s literary estate, which the University of Bielefeld was able to acquire in 2010, sheds light on the author and the edifice of his theory beyond what is known from his published works. In terms of its richness in information, it is perhaps only surpassed in the modern history of ideas by the estate of Edmund Husserl. Valuable insights are to be gained particularly from Luhmann’s index card file comprising about 90,000 index cards, which was at the heart of his theory-building work. These notes, produced between 1951 and 1996, are a unique documentation of the evolution of Luhmann’s thinking, so that this compilation can be viewed as his intellectual autobiography.Furthermore, his legacy includes almost 200 unpublished manuscripts, among them several autonomous versions of his social theory.
The material documenting the development of Luhmann’s research will be made accessible, scientifically processed and edited as part of the Academy project. The digital, hypertextual provision of the legacy takes place via a freely accessible information portal, which is designed as a central contact point for Luhmann research. In addition to this, the legacy writings will be published in a printed edition.