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Cash, codes and complexity: New adventures in the public management of pay scales


  • Wolfgang Rennison, Betina


Communication makes a difference. The manner in which we communicate creates the phenomena we communicate about. It can seem obvious, but we are nevertheless seldom aware of the complexity that this constructivist assumption implies. Through an analysis of a new pay reform in the Danish public sector, this article theorizes the complexity in terms of Niklas Luhmann's systems theory. In an attempt to understand the ambiguities of today's management of pay, it identifies four wholly different 'codes' of communication; law, money, learning and love. Each of them struggles for the position to construct 'pay', 'personnel' and 'management' differently. Ambiguity is construed in terms of the complex interference that arises between the systems of communication that are coded in these ways. Through this codified complexity, the new pay reform does not merely represent an innocent 'management technology', but a productive 'management policy' drawing on conflicting codes setting specific distinctions for rewarding, distinct boundaries for managing work life.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfgang Rennison, Betina, 2007. "Cash, codes and complexity: New adventures in the public management of pay scales," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 146-167, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:scaman:v:23:y:2007:i:2:p:146-167

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