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By  and Markus GieslerContact Person and Markus Giesler


There can be little doubt that the concept of social systems is central to marketing if we are, as Latour (1993) notes, increasingly enmeshed in hybrid networks of social, ecological, and informational systems. Yet it is surprising to find such a paucity of marketing and consumer research addressing it. This paper advances the idea of social systems in marketing. A social system is what emerges as soon as an actor or his action seeks to refer to a phenomenon (Luhmann 1966). A social system organizes, for an observer, the relation between freedom, blindness and dependence: a social system is free in the way of drawing its distinction, it is blind for the consequences; and for the success of its distinction dependent on everything it excludes. A social system is a way of establishing control through communication. To best reveal the idea of social systems in marketing, I explore and develop the tetralemma of the system, an analytical framework for systemic structuration, which is used to discuss two important social systems in marketing and consumer research: brand systems and protest systems. Findings demonstrate that social systems reveal formerly neglected important socio-cultural insights into the study of branding and consumer protest behavior. Further implications for marketing and consume

Year: 2011
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