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Sociological and cultural approaches to pre-modern decision-making
In this article I have presented some theories that historians of the early modern period use to analyze decision-making by procedure. In particular, I argue that Niklas Luhmann’s theory of legitimation by procedure is adaptable for historians of all periods. Luhmann explains the way decision-making functions not by looking at the contents of procedures, but at the forms; not at what is decided, but how this decision was actually made. This draws attention to the procedure as a process with technical and symbolical dimensions. Rituals are an integral part of procedures, although historians must always be aware that procedures can merge with rituals and, thereby, lose their function as forums of decision making. Usually, procedural decision-making is carried out as an interactive process that motivates the participants to engage in it. This motivation derives from the indeterminate outcome of the procedure. However, procedural engagement can turn into enmeshment. According to the rules of the procedure, the participants are forced to acknowledge what they have worked out themselves.