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2020/2021  KAN-CSOCV1034U  THE CHALLENGES OF MYTHS - Analyzing Contemporary Myths in Political, Economic and Organizational Life

English Title
THE CHALLENGES OF MYTHS - Analyzing Contemporary Myths in Political, Economic and Organizational Life

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 100
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Social Sciences
Course coordinator
  • Christiane Mossin - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
  • Mads Peter Karlsen - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
Main academic disciplines
  • Philosophy and ethics
  • Political leadership and public management
  • Sociology
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 12-02-2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
After finalizing the course the student is expected to be able to:
  • describe the ‘mythologization versus demythologization’ thematic within the framework of modernity;
  • demonstrate insight into various different theoretical understandings and definitions of myths;
  • compare different theories of myths as well as concepts such as mythology, religion, ideology, utopias, phantasms and fetishism;
  • give examples of contemporary myths — and substantiate why they are (or can be seen as) myths;
  • analyze the implications of particular contemporary myths — for individuals, organizations and society at large;
  • critically discuss the implications of contemporary myths for our conceptions of rationality, knowledge and truth;
  • critically reflect upon to what extent we may be able to get rid of myths or not.
THE CHALLENGES OF MYTHS - Analyzing Contemporary Myths in Political, Economic and Organizational Life:
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 Essay
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
ikke relevant
Description of the exam procedure

The essay must engage with core thematics of the course on basis of either a case or a theoretical issue of their own choice. Furthermore, relevant concepts and theories discussed in class should be integrated in the essay.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Do myths still exert a power over modern lifeforms and institutions? If so, what is the significance of myths for political, economic and cultural communication? What part do they play in the self-understandings of individuals and organizations? How do they affect the institutions of democracy and the functioning of capitalism?


Theories of myths have existed since Classical Antiquity; but in the 20th century a new attentiveness towards the significance of myths arose, now with a specific focus on modern myths. Political, social and cultural theorists found that mythological features penetrate the very core of ‘modern rationality’. While some took this as a critical warning, others embraced the idea of ‘modern myths’ and advocated the indispensability of myths for collective cohesion, political action, organizational structure or forceful leadership. Not only radical rightwing (fascist) and leftwing (anarchist) groups, but also broad political movements in Europe and the US created their very own myths in order to incite excitement for their particular causes.

Also capitalism was ascribed myths, presumed to be necessary for its functioning, such as myths of ‘market societies leading to democratization’, ‘accumulation’, ‘value’ or ‘homo economicus’. And in all corners of cultural life, from fine art to popular culture, from folk high schools to the world of sport, myths were invoked no less eagerly than in the premodern past.


Is this still so in the 21st century - even if we do not brag about it?

This course invites students to engage in discussions on the role of myths in contemporary (presumably) enlightened societies. We shall embark on issues such as the relationship between rationality and myth; the role of myths for change (may myths have revolutionary potentials, or do they tend to confirm established structures?); differences between mythology, religion, ideology, utopias, phantasms, symbols and fetishism; and the possible existential meaning of myths.


In particular, we shall seek to locate the myths of today, in economic and organizational life, in political projects and debates and in cultural phenomena. What kind of myths support the functioning of capitalism today as well as its critique, the European welfare states, or the protests and struggles related to climate change — if any? Is populist political communication particularly related to myth creation, or are processes of mythologization simply easily recognizable when it comes to populism? We will investigate the conditions for myth creation today. Do conditions such as the internet, the influence of ‘expert-knowledge,’ non-hierarchical organizational structures or professionalized politics in mass democracies enhance or inhibit the power of myths?

These and other questions shall be raised through the lenses of significant myth-conceptualizations and -theories of the 20th-21st centuries — some of which aim at criticizing or demythologizing modern myths, others consider mythologization an inescapable feature of life.

It is a priority of the course to provide the participants with a variety of analytical approaches to the study of modern myths — and a rich conceptual palette for a critical discussion of the roles and problematics of mythologization in contemporary life.

Description of the teaching methods
A combination of lectures, plenum discussions and group discussions. Movie clips or other cultural elements may be integrated,
We encourage students to contribute with critical perspectives — and value both empirical and theoretical inputs.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback will be made possible in various ways:
- Office hours with course coordinators;
- Class discussion on course and exam expectations;
- Organizing peer to peer feedback on students’ presentations.
Student workload
Course activities (including preparation) 156 hours
Exam (including exam preparation) 50 hours
Expected literature

Adorno, Theodor W. & Horkheimer, Max: Dialectics of the Enlightenment, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2002.

Agamben, Giorgio: Profanations. New York: Zone Books, 2007.

Arendt, Hannah: The Origins of Totalitarianism, New York: Schocken Books, 2004.

Barthes, R. (1972). Mythologies. New York: Hill and Wang.

Bataille, Georges: Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, University of Minnesota Press 1985.

Blieseman de Guevara, Berit (ed.) Myth and Narrative in International Politics

Bottici, Chiara: A Philosophy of Political Myth. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Bowles, M. (1997). The myth of management: Direction and failure in contemporary organizations. Human Relations, 50, 779–803.

Bowles, Martin L.: “Myth, Meaning and Work Organization” Organization Studies 1989, 10(3): 405-421.

Brown, Wendy: Walled States,Waning Sovereignty. New York: Zone Books, 2010.

Bultmann, Rudolf: Jesus Christ and Mythology, Scm Press 2012.

Christensen, Tom et al. (eds): Organization Theory and the Public Sector: Instrument, Culture, and Myth, London, Routledge 2007.

Eliade, Mircea: Myth and Reality. Waveland Pr Inc., 1998.

Freud, Sigmund: Totem and Taboo. Dover Publications, 2011.

Grint, Keith: “The Sacred in Leadership: Separation, Sacrifice and Silence” Organization Studies 2010, 31(01): 89–107

Kostera, M. (Ed.) (2008). Mythical inspirations for organizational realities. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Laclau, Ernesto: New reflections on the revolution of our time. London: Verso 1990.

Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe: Heidegger, Art, and Politics: The Fiction of the Political, Translated by, Chris Turner. Publisher, B. Blackwell, 1990.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1968). The structural study of myth. In Lévi-Strauss, C. (Ed.), Structural anthropology, Vol. 1 (pp. 206–231). London: Allen Lane the Penguin Press.

Nancy, Jean-Luc: “Myth Interruptioned”, The Inoperative Community. The University of Minnesota 1990.

Nancy, Jean- Luc & Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe: “The Nazi Myth”

Ricoeur, Paul: Symbolism of Evil, Beacon Press1986.

Schmitt, Carl: TheLeviathanin the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2008.

Sorel, Georges: Reflections on Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999.

Tudor, Henry: Political Myth. London: Praeger Publishers; The Pall. Mall Press, 1972

Zizek, S. The plague of Phantasies. London: Verso 2009.


Last updated on 12-02-2020