How Luhmann’s systems theory can inform gambling studies
Keywords:gambling, systems theory, Luhmann, methodology, sociology
Gambling and problem gambling studies tend to be characterised by individual-based approaches both theoretically and methodologically, while sociological approaches remain underutilised or even marginal. In this study, we discuss the potential of Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory in the analysis of gambling. As opposed to positivist or individualistic approaches, Luhmann’s work is strongly constructivist: neither systems nor their components are seen to be made up of individuals. Using systems theory in informing gambling research distances the research interests from individuals and directs it towards societal mechanisms, structures, and processes. Therefore, a systems theoretical approach can offer novel tools to study gambling, but also the paradigm of gambling research itself. This paper demonstrates how systems theory can critically inform gambling research through five operationalisations: gambling as a system, the gambling experience, the regulation of gambling economies, gambling providers as organisations, and systems theory as a methodological program. These five operationalisations can serve as an important window to widen perspectives on gambling.
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