Doppelte Buchführung. Kollabierende Systeme in Thomas Manns Buddenbrooks

Nicole Mattern


Research on Thomas Mann’s first novel has assumed so far that the liquidation of the Buddenbrook company is an effect of its conservative business activities. The article will try to show—with the help of systems theory developed by Niklas Luhmann—that the business activities of the Buddenbrook enterprise are riskier than it is evident at first sight. The quiet business activity of the company is hedged by the business activity of the family (mostly weddings and deaths), which can be read as foreshadowing today’s tradings and export-import business. While the Hagenströms, merely‘ practice speculative tradings, the business of the Buddenbrooks points to risks of hedging, which can be more dangerous than speculative trading. Therefore the novel Buddenbrooks anticipates the experiences of crisis and contingency in the coming post-modern western societies and the establishment of complex abstract financial instruments. (NM; in German)

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