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2018/2019  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
Start time of the course Second Quarter
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)
Kontaktinformation: https:/​/​e-campus.dk/​studium/​kontakt/​student-hub
Main academic disciplines
  • Philosophy and ethics
  • Management
  • Organization
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 20-02-2018

Relevant links

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 exam
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Case based assignment
Duration 72 hours to prepare
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
* if the student fails the ordinary exam the student will have to hand in a new project.
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) analysis.

Description of the 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.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback is given via regular short assignments and Student to student-feedback
Student workload
teaching 33 hours
reading 113 hours
preparation for the exam 60 hours
Expected literature

Preliminary literature:


  • Arnaud, G. & Vanheule, S. (2005) The division of the subject and the organization: a Lacanian approach to subjectivity at work, Journal of Organizational Change Management, 20(3): 359-369.
  • Banerjee, B. & Linstead, S. (2001) Globalization, Multiculturalism and Other Fictions: Colonialism for the New Millennium, Organization, 8(4): 683-722.
  • Beunza, D. and Garud, R., 2007. Calculators, lemmings or frame‐makers? The intermediary role of securities analysts. The sociological review, 55(s2), pp.13-39.
  • Böhm, S. & De Cock, C. (2005) ‘Everything you wanted to know about Organization Theory… but were afraid to ask Slavoj Žižek’, Sociological Review, Vol. 53 No. S1, pp. 279-291.
  • Bourne, C. 2017. “Reframing Power, Trust and PR” Ch. 2 in Trust, Power and Public Relations in Financial Markets. London: Routledge
  • Christensen, J.F. & S. L. Muhr (2018): Desired diversity and symptomatic anxiety: Theorising failed diversity as Lacanian lack. Culture and Organization.
  • Eagleton, T. (1991) Ideology: An Introduction. London: Verso, pp. xi-31. [Introduction and Chapter 1]. Available here: https:/​/​archive.org/​details/​TerryEagleton-IdeologyAnIntroduction
  • Fleming, P., & Spicer, A. (2014). Power in management and organization science. The Academy of Management Annals8(1), 237-298.
  • Kunda, G., 2009. Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Temple University Press. Ch. 1
  • Latour, B. 1991. Technology is society made durable. In A Sociology of Monsters, ed. J. Law. Routledge.
  • Malinowski, B., 2002. Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An account of native enterprise and adventure in the archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. Routledge.
  • Merton, Robert K. (1948), "The Self Fulfilling Prophecy", Antioch Review, 8 (2 (Summer)): 193-210.
  • Muhr, S.L. & L. Kirkegaard (2013): The Dream Consultant: Productive Fantasies at Work. Culture and Organization, 19(2): 105-123.
  • Reed, I.A. (2013) Power: Relational, Discursive, and Performative Dimensions, Sociological Theory, 31(3) 193–218.
  • Roberts, J. (2005): The Power of the ‘Imaginary’ in Disciplinary Processes. Organization, 12(5): 619-642.
  • Zizek, S. (2008) The Sublime Object of Ideology, part one, pp ix-57. London: Verso. (will be uploaded on learn)
  • Zuboff, S., 2015. Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization. Journal of Information Technology, 30(1), pp.75-89.
Last updated on 20-02-2018