The Overturned Minister

Simon Møbjerg Sørensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The Overturned Minister examines how ministers in Denmark are overturned. In search for explanations this thesis examines 15 cases of ministers, which are all overturned between 1992 and 2016. The thesis uses Niklas Luhmann’s theory about the functionally differentiated society to observe how the political system cannot fixate contingency, when a minister is scandalized. The scandal opens space for power struggles between the power superior minister and the power inferior opposition politician. In analyzing the relation the form turns out to be paradoxical and undecidable. The analysis shows that the political system needs help from another system to de-paradox the undecidability and thereby decide whether a minister should stay or go. In an analysis of semantics it is analyzed how the mass media system helps the political system de-paradox this undecidability. By forming semantics through selection in the code information/not-information the mass media helps the political system decide if a scandalized minister are to leave his job. It is shown that the media often form a liar semantic which help undermine the minister’s credibility, and a finished semantic where ministers are doomed finished by leading articles or political commentators which serve as selffulfilling prophecies. These semantics effectively decide the undecidability and help overturn ministers. It is argued that there are links between these semantics and overturned ministers but it is also shown that there are no causality as mass media semantics can arise without resulting in overturning the minister concerned. It is furthermore argued that governments have honeymoon periods which create a temporal slide in the mass media selection process of what to mark as information. From those conclusions the thesis introduces the concept of power contingency as we see that it is not given when and how power is performed as political power struggles have moved from the political system to the mass media system where it is possible to manipulate information. This power contingency makes it contingent if a minister is overturned. This raises the question whether Luhmann’s power concept is favorable for empirical analysis. In the discussion it is suggested, with help from Michel Foucault and Ernesto Laclau, to overlap the political and the mass media system, so the minister is theoretically freed from power and thereby share equal conditions with opposition politicians and media to form the semantics of him as minister.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages88
SupervisorsErik Mygind du Plessis