Book reviewApplying Luhmann to Translation Studies: Translation in Society London: Routledge, 2012. xv + 235 pp. ISBN 978-0-415-89230-8 (hb) £90.
Reviewed by Michael Boyden
Do we really need a book that promises to apply Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory to translation? As Anthony Pym has observed, theories of modern society such as Luhmann’s are based on similar principles and ideas as those which informed the descriptive paradigm of the Tel Aviv and Leuven schools in the seventies and eighties of the last century, so a “sociological turn” in Translation Studies may “risk bringing us back full circle” (Pym 2010, 86). Andrew Chesterman expresses a similar concern when arguing that Luhmann’s theory is more useful for the study of social factors influencing translators and translation products than the translation process itself. Chesterman considers the latter sub-area of the sociology of translation, the sociology of translating, more deserving of further research, given that it “has received the least attention” (Chesterman 2006, 12). In Applying Luhmann to Translation studies, Sergey Tyulenev takes up the gauntlet and attempts to show that a closer examination of Luhmann’s oeuvre may help us to get at a better understanding, not just of how translators work and what motivates their behavior, but also of translation itself as a systemic phenomenon with distinctive properties of its own.