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2014/2015  KAN-CCMVV4020U  Power, Culture and Politics in Contemporary Organizations

English Title
Power, Culture and Politics in Contemporary Organizations

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Course period Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Sara Louise Muhr - Department of Organization (IOA)
Course administrator Mette Ellekrog (mbe.ioa@cbs.dk)
Main academic disciplines
  • Philosophy and philosophy of science
  • Management
  • Organization
Last updated on 25-08-2014
Learning objectives
  • The students should be able to account for the concepts, theories and perspectives presented in the course.
  • The students should be able to compare and discuss the concepts, theories and perspectives presented in the course.
  • The students should be able to apply these concepts, theories and perspectives analytically and critically to given organizational case material.
  • The students should be able to operationalize these concepts theories and perspectives analytically and critically in qualitative data analysis.
  • The students should be able to critically reflect upon and evaluate the practical and theoretical limitations and implications of applying different concepts, theories and perspectives to an organizational phenomenon.
Course prerequisites
It is an advantage to have prior knowledge about organization theory and qualitative organizational analysis. We will work with advanced organizational power and culture theory/analysis.
Power, Culture and Politics in Contemporary Organizations:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Case based assignment
Duration 72 hours to prepare
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Autumn Term, October
Make-up exam/re-exam
Another examination form
Depending on number of students for the re-exam, this might be different from the original exam.
Course content and structure
The aim of the course is to provide students with knowledge about how dynamics of power, culture and politics influence the behavior and decision-making in contemporary organizations and make the students capable of analyzing organizational phenomena in light of such theories.
Contemporary work-life is much more flexible and individual than it was just 20 years ago. Today, a work-day is not only limited by work-hours (e.g. 9-5), but is to a larger and larger degree also regulated by complex structures defined by demands of clients, projects and personal life situations. This means that traditional control and management mechanisms resting on notions of authoritative power and bureaucratic hierarchical structures are being replaced – or at least appended by – more subtle power structures and ephemeral organizational cultures. Understanding such power structures and cultural dynamics are of paramount importance in order to manage people – and optimize organizational performance.
The students will in this course both be presented with primary texts from the fields of for example philosophy and sociology, management texts and be expected to apply these concepts and perspectives to an organizational context. The aim of the course is therefore two-fold. 1) For the students to get a better conceptual understanding of power, culture and political theory and 2) to be able to apply these to an organizational context in order to analyze a concrete organizational problem. To emphasize this double purpose, the students will both be given conceptual lectures, but will also be working on a number of empirical assignments, in which the students will be solving cases as well as send out to do field-work (to for example collect interview and observation material), which will be analyzed and discussed in class.
By combining empirical material, management texts and philosophical concepts, the students will get a concrete and practical insight into the managerial challenges of power, culture and politics and a philosophical understanding of the more principal nature of these challenges. The students will learn to analyze and understand ethnography-inspired empirical material such as interviews and observations in light of managerial and philosophical concepts such as leadership, structure, performance, autonomy, identity, diversity, passion, desire and obligation. Besides equipping the students theoretically in the field of organizational power, culture and politics, this course will also have direct relevance for students who wish to apply qualitative ethnographic inspired studies in their master dissertations such as conducting various forms of (critical) discourse analysis.
Teaching methods
Class time will include lectures as well as group work in which students will explore theoretical perspectives and apply them to specific cases. The students are therefore expected to have read and be familiar with the assigned readings and cases when coming to class in order to fully benefit from the teaching methods.
Further Information
Changes in course schedule may occur
Monday 08.55-14.15, week 39,40,41
Friday 08.55-14.15, week 39,40
Friday 08.55-11.30, week 41
Expected literature
  • Ailon, G. (2006): What B Would Otherwise Do: A Critique of Conceptualizations of ‘Power’ in Organizational Theory, Organization, 13(6): 771–800
  • Fleming, P. (2007): Sexuality, Power and Resistance in the Workplace, Organization Studies, 28(02):239–256
  • Foucault, M (1978): The History of Sexuality. US: Random House (Extracts from the text is provided)
  • Foucault, M (1982): The subject of power, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Summer), pp. 777-795 
  • Foucault, M. (2011): The gay science, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Spring), pp. 385-403
  • Johnsen, Rasmus; Muhr, Sara Louise and Pedersen, Michael (2009) ‘The Frantic Gesture of Interpassivity – Maintaining the Separation Between the Corporate and Authentic self’, Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 22, no 2, 202-213
  • Kärreman, D. & Alvesson, M. (2004) Cages in Tandem: Management Control, Social Identity, and Identification in a Knowledge-Intensive Firm, Organization, 11(1): 149–175
  • Martin, J & Siehl, C (1983) Organizational Culture and Counterculture: An Uneasy Symbiosis, Organizational Dynamics, autumn: 52-64.
  • Meak, V.L. (1988) Organizational Culture: Origins and Weaknesses, Organization Studies, 9(4): 453-473
  • Mills, T.L. et al () `Doing' Organizational Culture in the Saturn Corporation, Organization Studies, 22(1): 117-143
  • Rehn, A. (2008): On Meta-Ideology and Moralization: A Prolegomena to a Critique of Management Studies, Organization, 15(4): 598–609
  • Smircich, L. (1983) Concepts of Culture and Organizational Analysis, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3
  • Taylor, P. & Bain, P. (2003), ‘Subterranean Worksick Blues’: Humour as
  • Subversion in Two Call Centres, Organization Studies, 24(9): 1487–1509
  • Vredenburgh, D. & Brender, Y. (1998) The Hierarchical Abuse of Power in Work Organizations, Journal of Business Ethics 17: 1337–1347
Zizek, S. (1889): The sublime object of ideology. UK: Verso
Last updated on 25-08-2014