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The University of Southampton

MANG1020 Ideas that Shaped the Business World 1: Government and Society

Module Overview

This module helps students build an intellectual foundation to business as a field of inquiry. The module presents a ‘big history’ of ideas to expose students to the major schools of thought in philosophy, politics and early thinkers of social science (economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology). By exploring the social movements and counter-movements that have shaped the course of human intellectual history, students will locate the emergence of business and management not only in its economic context, but within a wider arena of social and political transformation. Students will be exposed to competing perspectives on some of the most fundamental problems facing thinking individuals throughout the centuries, and will be strongly encouraged to develop reflective awareness of the ways through which seemingly distant ideas shape the economic organisation of contemporary societies. To this end, moreover, students will have the opportunity to identify and question the soundness of taken-for-granted assumptions underpinning the formations of the worlds we inhabit. By the end of the module students will have a powerful set of thinking tools by which to interpret events of the past, the present, and visions of the future. The module has two principal aims: first, to impress upon students the importance of the ‘big ideas’ that have impacted most strongly on the development of advanced human societies; and second, to motivate students to reflect on the relevance of these big ideas for their own lives, and for the wider challenges of the contemporary business world. The overarching aim of the module is to establish business management as an intellectually stimulating and liberal subject which affords students with a powerful and enlightening understanding of a contingently emerging world - a world that we are nonetheless often tempted to take as natural and somehow inevitable. ‘Part 1 - Government and Society’ explores early developments in human thought in relation to central power and political institutions, economic enterprise, private property and social stratification. It examines debates about the importance of political stability for economic development and human well-being. It will also explore geographical dimensions of cultural diversity, social exchange and social identity. It therefore examines important historical and geographical processes necessary for business operations and economic prosperity.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the vast intellectual terrain and history of ideas that have shaped the contemporary business world;
  • the immense complexity entailed in the subject matter of business management;
  • the salience of using alternative intellectual lenses to evaluate business challenges - past, present, future.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe the major events in human intellectual history that have shaped economic activity;
  • identify different schools of thought that have shaped our economic, political and social understanding of who we are;
  • recognise the intellectual foundations of business enterprise, business organisations and practices;
  • evaluate the appropriateness of different thinking tools for tackling diverse problems.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • use a wide range of intellectual ideas and analytical thinking to enrich your arguments;
  • appreciate ideas from different perspectives and use multiple framing to deepen your understanding of complex phenomena;
  • reflect on ideas deeply and richly in a way that opens up the space for the exploration of meaning in business contexts;
  • develop skills of practical reasoning in the face of complex and indeterminate social phenomena.


The module syllabus is organised around key events in human history: a) Human Emergence: One species (5 million – 35,000 years ago) b) Advanced Hunting and Gathering (35,000 – 10,000 years ago) c) Early Agriculture (8000 – 3500 BCE) d) Early Cities (3500 – 800 BCE) e) Afro-Eurasian Network (800 BCE – 1000 CE) f) Connecting globe (1000 CE – 1500 CE) g) Industrialisation (1750 – 1900 CE) h) Socialist revolution (1900 – 1950 CE) i) Post-industrial society (1950 CE – ) Central intellectual themes: a) Ancient Greek thought and its contemporary relevance b) Philosophy and science c) Problems of knowledge d) Sources of knowledge: From deities to mortal authorities to the authority of reason e) The revolution of forms of production: From the pre-Socratics to the French revolution f) Themes in existentialist thought – self-love and self-gain – personal wealth g) Continental schools of thought of the 20th century h) The American style of thought i) Wittgenstein, Heidegger and postmodern developments j) The limitations of postmodern critique Views on early capitalism: a) The Greek outlook b) Capitalist arrangements from a Christian perspective c) Hobbes, Voltaire and Rousseau on capitalism d) The communist critique e) Continental approaches on capitalist practices: Weber et al. f) The great Austrians: Schumpeter, von Mises and Hayek g) The contribution of critical theory h) Understanding the post-industrial world i) From the question of capitalism to questions of desirable forms of capitalism Key case studies: a) Thinking about the self – meditation b) Scarcity and material wellbeing c) Military and strategy d) The invention of the joint-stock corporation e) Family and work – family business and work-life balance

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Interactive case studies • Problem-solving activities • Directed reading • Private/guided study Learning activities include: • Introductory lectures • Assignments • Case study/problem solving activities • In class debate and discussion • Private study • Use of video and online materials

Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Follow-up work20
Completion of assessment task36
Wider reading or practice40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Marx, K.. Capital Vol. 1. 

Academy of Management Review. Journal

Perrow, C. (1986). Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay. 

Business History. Journal

Aldrich, H (1999). Organizations Evolving. 

Philosophy of Management. Journal

Bell. Coming of the Post-Industrial Society. 

Gagliardi, P. and Czarniawaski, B. Management Education and Humanities. 

Orwell. G (1949). 1984. 

Okasha, S. (2002). Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction. 

Pugh, D. S., & Hickson, D. J. (2007). Writers on Organizations. 

Tsoukas, H., & Knudsen, C. (Eds.) (2005). The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory. 

Chandler. The Visible Hand. 

Taylor, FW. Principles of Scientific Management. 

Journal of Management Studies. Journal

Zamyatin. We. 

Claeys and Sargent. The Utopia Reader. 

Malthus. Principles of Population. 

Organization. Journal

Huxley. Brave New World. 

Organization Studies. Journal

Smith, A.. Wealth of Nations. 

Academy of Management. Journal

JS Mill. On Liberty. 

Trinder. Britain’s Industrial Revolution. 

Griseri, P (2013). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Management. 

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Article  (1000 words) 40%
Critical Reflection  (1500 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical Reflection  (2500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical Reflection  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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