Management as a Symbolizing Construction? Re-Arranging the Understanding of Management


  • Katharina Mayr LMU München
  • Jasmin Siri LMU München



management, systems, functional analysis, symbol, symbolizing construction, Luhmann, symbolism, organization


In this article, we outline the concept of management as a symbolizing construction. According to Niklas LUHMANN, organizations process by referring to decisions. But decisions are not simply "given" and in principle invisible. This is the reason why organizations institute formalities like protocols, signatures or other insignia of the official that symbolize the decision—without actually being a decision. These symbols allow for making decisions "process-able." And just like a protocol or a signature, management symbolizes decisions as well. Management provides an organizational practice with symbols of decision making without being the "unity" of the decisions, as decisions perpetually have to be reconstructed, redefined and rearranged in the communication of all organizational units. Therefore management symbolizes on the one hand more than it can achieve. On the other hand the importance of management as a symbolizing construction lies in allowing the reconstruction, redefining and rearrangement of decisions by making them visible and recognizable. Heroic managers, meetings, management tools and procedures are solutions to the paradox of decision making. By symbolizing decidedness they create credibilities that conceal the self-referential construction of organizational communication and the paradox of its decision praxis. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1003218


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Katharina Mayr, LMU München

Katharina MAYR, Dipl. Soz., is a research assistant at the Institute for Sociology of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. Over the past four years she has worked on the EU-funded project "Knowandpol" ( which looks at the interferences of knowledge and policy in the education and health sector. Her doctoral research is about the construction of expertise in the political regulation of end of life decisions. Organization theory and a theory of the society are the frames for most of her empirical work, like for example that on Healthcare Ethics Committees (HECs).

Jasmin Siri, LMU München

Jasmin SIRI, Dipl. Soz., is an associate lecturer at the Institute for Sociology of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. She holds a scholarship of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and is currently working on her dissertation about party membership and party organization. Her research interests include Political Sociology, Sociology of Organizations, Qualitative Social Research and Political Philosophy. See for a former publication in FQS: "Conference Report: Methodologies of Systems—How to Get to the Case and How to Get Behind it."




How to Cite

Mayr, K., & Siri, J. (2010). Management as a Symbolizing Construction? Re-Arranging the Understanding of Management. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(3).