Niklas Luhmann is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the most original and controversial intellectual figures of the 20th Century. King and Thornhill offer the first comprehensive account of his social theory as it relates to law and politics. they explain his complex ideas, placing them in broad cross-disciplinary debates. Luhmann's theory, they contend, stands in direct opposition to the 'anthropocentric', humanist and liberal traditions that have dominated modern legal and political thought. As such it opens up the possibility of a new paradigm - one where the certainties, ambitions, and rational foundations of the Enlightenment are continually subjected to critical observation. King and Thornhill also answer those critics who reject Luhmann out of hand as an ultra-conservative, arguing that his conservatism should be seen as a challenge to prevailing 'idealisms', and as a catalyst for a radical rethink of the role of theory in the social sciences.