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Both thought and digestion are important preconditions for communication, but neither appears in communication as such. Note, however, that Maturana argued very vocally that this appropriation of autopoietic theory was conceptually unsound, as it presupposes the autonomy of communications from actual persons.
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That is, by describing social systems as operationally closed networks of communications, Luhmann according to Maturana ignores the fact that communications presuppose human communicators. Autopoiesis only applies to networks of processes that reproduce themselves,  but communications are reproduced by humans. For this reason, the analogy from biology to sociology does not, in this case, hold. Communication is made possible by human bodies and consciousness,  but this does not make communication operationally open.
To "participate" in communication, one must be able to render one's thoughts and perceptions into elements of communication. This can only ever occur as a communicative operation thoughts and perceptions cannot be directly transmitted and must therefore satisfy internal system conditions that are specific to communication: Luhmann likens the operation of autopoiesis the filtering and processing of information from the environment to a program , making a series of logical distinctions in German, Unterscheidungen.
Here, Luhmann refers to the British mathematician G. Spencer-Brown 's logic of distinctions that Maturana and Varela had earlier identified as a model for the functioning of any cognitive process. The supreme criterion guiding the "self-creation" of any given system is a defining binary code. This binary code is not to be confused with the computers operation: Although Luhmann first developed his understanding of social systems theory under Parsons' influence, he soon moved away from the Parsonian concept.
The most important difference is that Parsons framed systems as forms of action , in accordance with the AGIL paradigm. Parsons' systems theory treats systems as operationally open , and interactive through an input and output schema. Influenced by second-order cybernetics , Luhmann instead treats systems as autopoietic and operationally closed.
Social systems are defined by Luhmann not as action but as recursive communication.
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Modern society is defined as a world system consisting of the sum total of all communication happening at once,  and individual function systems such as the economy, politics, science, love, art, the media, etc. Another difference is that Parsons asks how certain subsystems contribute to the functioning of overall society.
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Luhmann starts with the differentiation of the systems themselves out of a nondescript environment. While he does observe how certain systems fulfill functions that contribute to "society" as a whole, he dispenses with the assumption of a priori cultural or normative consensus or "complimentary purpose" which was common to Durkheim and Parsons' conceptualization of a social function. Finally, the systems' autopoietic closure is another fundamental difference from Parsons' concept. Each system works strictly according to its very own code and can observe other systems only by applying its code to their operations.
For example, the code of the economy involves the application of the distinction between payment and non-payment. Other system operations appear within the economic field of references only insofar as this economic code can be applied to them. Hence, a political decision becomes an economic operation when it is observed as a government spending money or not. Likewise, a legal judgement may also be an economic operation when settlement of a contractual dispute obliges one party to pay for the goods or services they had acquired.
The codes of the economy, politics and law operate autonomously, but their "interpenetration"  is evident when observing "events"  which simultaneously involve the participation of more than one system.
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