Contingency n. 1 a future event or circumstance regarded as likely to occur, or as influencing present action. 2 something dependent on another uncertain event or occurrence. 3 uncertainty of occurrence. 4 a one thing incident to another. b an incidental expense etc. (contingency fund).


Welcome to Contingency Street. Why ‘contingency’ you might ask. Two reasons. First, contingency is central in Luhmann’s work and is seen to have structural significance. And second, any entity that adopts contingency as part of its identity acknowledges that it could be otherwise, and that whatever it does is neither impossible nor necessary.

The initial impetus for this site was to provide a resource for those coming to Luhmann’s theory for the first time (hence the drop-down menus). This is a worthy goal. Too worthy as it turned out, not least because it is only in their various interrelationships that Luhmann’s concepts can be properly understood. So that the job of introducing the theory is probably best left to guidebooks (happily some very good and accessible guides are now available in English: see Introductions section of the Books menu for more). (Nevertheless, and in blatant contradiction, some limited attempt at introduction is provided in Concept Alley).

I like bloggers who describe their blog as a searchable database, one that catalogues their work and their interests. I like even more the notion of the zettelkasten. The zettelkasten is a box of index cards.* The notion of a blog post as a single zettel or index card lowers the stakes considerably. It reduces resistance and expectation. So I have used an image of an old zettelkasten on this page, as a reminder that a niche academic blog can be as orderly or as haphazard as any zettelkasten. Its primary function is as a note-taking, note-storing entity; an aid memoire to the writer. And if this sounds arbitrary and rather selfish I suppose it is…


* Luhmann famously developed an extraordinarily extensive zettelkasten which, he claimed, after at least twelve years of data input, had become an autopoietic system in its own right. Over the last number of years researchers in Bielefeld have been in the process of digitising Luhmann’s zettelkasten. Some initial results are available online – but sadly only in the original German.

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