On the History of the Form of Administrative Decisions: How Decisions Begin to Desire Uncertainty

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In management and organization history, the concept of the decision has often been understood as an ahistorical phenomenon. The changing contexts, technologies, and subjects of decision-making have been thoroughly studied, but decision itself is rarely made an object of historical investigation. Addressing the question of how the very form of the decision changes in the course of history, this article studies the Danish public administration from the late nineteenth century to today. We argue that, over time, public administration reacts to self-produced complexity by developing higher and higher orders of decision-making resulting in a form of decision-making that deconstructs the very difference between decision premises and decision. We conclude that public administration has undergone a development where decision-making is increasingly used not to absorb uncertainty, but to create uncertainty in order to create new possibilities for public administration itself.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement & Organizational History
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)119-141
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Published online: 16. May 2017


  • Public administration
  • decision-making
  • Luhmann
  • Denmark
  • Temporality
  • Potentialization
  • Conceptual history

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