Some things are hard to translate. The writings of Niklas Luhmann are certainly among them. His work on a grand theory of society (Theorie der Gesellschaft) offers a highly idiosyncratic language that is hard to follow and even harder to translate, indeed. No wonder orgtheory.net poses the Luhmann Challenge to give “an example of an empirical phenomenon or puzzle that was clarified, explained, or resolved using autopoeisis or any other of Luhmann’s concepts.”
Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with Luhmann. I rely a great deal on his work in my own dissertation, which already its title reveals: Structures and Dynamics of Autopoietic Organizations. Translating his language from German to English has never been a pleasure. Just think about the concept of Anschlusskommunikation which, in blunt words, points out that communication now and here comes about previous communication and already serves future communication. Anschlusskommunikation, one neat little German word, no English translation. Connecting communication? Connectivity of communication? Nothing really fits.
It’s not just the missing translation for many of Luhmann’s concepts, it’s the very Anschlusskommunikation of his writings to other scientific communities that’s missing. The real challenge with respect to Luhmann, in may opinion, is to be inspired by his work, and then leave him behind to continue in your own direction. Connecting communications may just be the way to do that.