Experiencing with identity. Paradoxical government in times of resistance

Justine Grønbæk Pors


This article studies how a political organization begins to experiment with its identity. By use of an empirical case of the Danish Ministry of Education, I examine how a political organization supplements its identity of a legislating power with identities of a supervisor, beacon and facilitator of reflection processes. I analyse how the Danish Ministry of Education observes that its initial attempts to strengthen evaluation in the Danish public schools did not have the wanted effects because the values and professional norms of public school teachers constitute a resistance towards interference from outside the educational system. The Ministry thus faces a dilemma: the more it tries to control evaluation in the public school, the less likely it is to produce a desired effect.

This paradox contains destructive potential but also causes the Ministry to reflect upon its own role in the development of evaluation in public schools. Out of a paralysis emerge new innovative strategies of governing, aimed at the schools’ self-governing capacity. The identity of the political system thus emerges as oscillations between different roles of a legislating power and a supervising coach. 

The case study suggests that a society of experimentalism is emerging. Thus, the relevant object of study is no longer organizational identity, but the experiments with different identities that modern organizations are performing.


Governance; systems theory; education policy; polyphony; experimenting organizations

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