From Self-evident Norms to Contingent Couplings: A Systems-theoretical Analysis of Changes in the Relationship between Schools and the Function Systems in Denmark

Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen, Justine Grønbæk Pors*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Taking a point of departure in the paradoxical fact that the increase in educational knowledge leads to an increase in uncertainty for educational organisations, this article explores how uncertainty and contingency have increasingly become an integral part of school governance. The article draws on Niklas Luhmann’s theory of ‘World Society’ as a functional differentiated society providing a range of different symbolic media for educational organisations. To trace the increase in the complexity of governing, we provide a historical account of the shifting couplings between schools and function systems. We show how the school becomes linked to an increasing number of symbolic media so that education becomes only one out of many other concerns. The article studies the consequences these shifting couplings have for how schools are governed and how they are expected to self-manage their relationship to different function systems.

The article adds to existing studies of how education has become more and more differentiated with the argument that this has also led to new forms of couplings between schools and the education system with a number of important implications for the teaching profession.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 22 Apr 2021.


  • Luhmann
  • World society
  • Governing
  • Heterophony
  • Potentiality
  • Education policy
  • Form/media

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