Steering the Unpredictable: A System Theoretical Analysis of the Political Steering of Danish Music Development

Matias Flensborg & Mathias Marcussen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This master thesis investigates how the political steering of art results in a paradoxical situation, where securing the reproduction of art results in the destruction of it. The political system communicates: ‘Do as you are told’, and at the same time: ‘Be independent’. We investigate this subject, by focusing on the Danish Ministry of Culture, and its political steering of the reproduction of Danish music. The thesis applies Niklas Luhmann’s System Theory approach and through second order observations of the semantics regarding cultural policy, we observe a fundamental transformation in the purpose of art - from playing an educational part in the Danish welfare system, to having a multitude of opposing purposes. The central problem for this thesis is: How is it possible for the state to steer creative unpredictability, based on an analysis of the political steering of Danish music, done by The Danish Ministry of Culture in the period 1967-2018? By applying Luhmann’s semantics apparatus, we observe how the Danish Ministry of Culture, since its inauguration, have been steering art and feeding it with a self-proclaimed purpose, whilst being reflective about arts necessity of freedom. We observe how art today is claimed to be public care, educational, profitable, unpredictable, challenging, competitive, create identity and satisfies an audience. This multitude of purposes leads to the desire of Danish music that excels in being internationally oriented, and thus not Danish. It leads to the desire of creating conditions for the creation of musical innovation, whilst demanding a certain type of music that is audience oriented. Lastly, we observe how the multitude of opposing purposes leads to the desire of creative unpredictability, but only as long as it is profitable. The Danish Ministry of Culture hides these paradoxes, by creating the illusion of freedom. It is therefore every musician’s responsibility, to discover new types of art, which can deal with the tension in the paradoxes. Free art becomes the solution, that makes way for the creation of music done on the premises of the musician, and at the same time creates the option for more demands in the future. With the thesis, we problematize that the political steering of art and similar creative dynamics cannot be a formalized steering that demands or sets goals for art, since it limits arts ability to be itself. The steering must reflect on it’s own steering limit and the creative unpredictability to unfold. Otherwise, the steering ends up being unfocused and contradictory, which makes the ambition of steering even more unlikely.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages122
SupervisorsErik Caparros Højbjerg