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2015/2016  KAN-CSOCV1013U  The politics of organization

English Title
The politics of organization

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for MSc of Social Science
Course coordinator
  • Max Schellmann - MPP
  • Timon Beyes - MPP
Contact information: https:/​/​e-campus.dk/​studium/​student-hub/​aabningstider-og-kontaktinformation
Main academic disciplines
  • Organization
  • Political leadership and public management
  • Sociology
Last updated on 26-02-2015
Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors:
  • Reflect upon new and alternative forms of organization and understand their political implications
  • Understand, compare and analyse current literature on the return of the political with regard to current political events and the politics of organization
  • Apply those theories to exemplary cases and their organizational forms and processes
  • Identify the implications for organizational practice
The politics of organization:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content and structure

Course content


From a proliferation of armed conflicts to guerilla-style terrorist movements, from global uprisings in the mold of “Occupy” to the “Anonymous” hacker movement, from Arab Spring to Spanish Indignados to “Femen” to countless small-scale struggles around how to organize one’s life in contemporary cities: political struggle is shaping the organization of the social.


In this course we therefore seek to confront the study of organization with the question of the political. The course is based on the fundamental distinction between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’: between politics as denoting institutional politics, its individual or organizational actors, and the political as denoting the ability to make a new beginning and interrupt and reshape a given order, to echo Hanna Arendt’s famous definition.


Politics in the sense of the political, then, emerges through the struggle of an unrecognized party for equal recognition in the established order, of making one’s voice heard, of changing the terms of a given debate, of interrupting and reinventing a given organization of what can be said and done. Again, consider “Occupy” or “Anonymous”: Arguably, these movements become political by changing the ways they organize themselves and seek to influence their environments. They present us with the task of not only rethinking politics in terms of the political, but also of studying the role and processes of organization that take place in political events.


To understand what is at stake here, we connect concrete empirical examples to important texts of the current ‘political turn’ in contemporary thought (written by thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek). Their focus on the political, and thus on its disruptive moment and how plurality and difference, transformation and new publics come to appear, is currently – and with regard to current events: not surprisingly – en vogue. These texts inform how we approach, study and reflect on the politics of organization: What can we learn about and ‘for’ organization? Do the writings and concepts help us to make sense of how contemporary political and social movements are organized, but also how political struggle takes place in seemingly conventional organizational contexts, such as administrations and corporations?


The course is structured into three parts. First, we engage with the question of the politics of organization through a number of examples including art projects, films and literature. Second, on this basis the students are invited to (re)think traditional as well as new forms of organizations and organizing by way of the distinction between ‚politics’ and ‚the political’. Third, to explore a new politics of organization, the students relate their conceptual findings to the study of actual movements and processes of (re)organization such as the ones mentioned above.


Course structure

The course is both text- and case-based: It hinges on engaging with concepts and debates on the political in order to coax out their importance for understanding and enacting concrete organizational processes. Students are therefore asked to find and explore contemporary performances of organization and analyze and reflect on their politics, i.e. mainly with regard to the course literature.

Teaching methods
The course will consist of input lectures as well as text-, video- and research-based dialogical sessions.

The success of the course's sessions is predicated on the students’ (and, of course, the teachers’) engagement. Discussion-based formats and peer-learning are emphasized.
Further Information

Changes in course schedule may occur
Wednesday 13.30-17.00

Expected literature

Excerpts from:


Agamben, G. (2000) Means without End. Notes on Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 
Arendt, H.  (1970). On Violence. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Javanovich.
Butler, J. Laclau, E. and Žižek, S. (2000). Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues On The Left. London and New York: Verso.
Marchart, O. (2007). Post-foundational Political Thought:Political Difference in Nancy, Lefort, Badiou and Laclau (Taking on the Political).Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Rancière, J. (1995). On the Shores of Politics. London: Verso.

Last updated on 26-02-2015