This module introduces students to philosophical approaches in understanding organisations and their management. The module will consist of three interrelated themes. The first will comprise the attempt to familiarise students with the essential problems at the heart of philosophical debate and expose them to different ways of dealing with them. The second theme will be organised around contemporary schools of thought and thinkers (e.g. logical positivism and Foucault), and founding intellectual fathers of economic thought (e.g. Marx). During these sessions we will be preoccupied with utilising various philosophical lenses in order to make sense of organisational phenomena, gain a better grasp of the intellectual origins of our extant understandings, and critically reflect upon taken-for-granted views about managing. The final theme will concentrate more sharply on organisational settings by studying how advances in organisational theory have afforded important philosophical insights into organisations and (the possibility of) their management.
Aims and Objectives
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- identify different schools of thought;
- evaluate the appropriateness of different thinking tools for tackling diverse problems.
- recognise the intellectual foundations of core management theories and practices;
- explain basic philosophical concepts;
Transferable and Generic Skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- use a wide range of intellectual ideas in order to enrich your arguments;
- use a wide range of tools in order to refine your thinking processes and write more compelling arguments;
- conduct independent bibliographical research.
- write well-crafted essays and present them in a well-structured manner;
Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
- the value of transparent thinking in gaining charge of our beliefs and decision making processes;
- the indecisive nature of managerial knowledge;
- the salience of using alternative philosophical lenses in evaluating managerial problems and developing balanced and undogmatic understandings.
- the immense complexity of organisational worlds;
- the existence of multiple dimensions affecting organisational entities (especially ones that typically tend to go undetected in conventional managerial thinking);
Basic philosophical concepts, problems and ideas:
- Problems of administration and social organisation since Ancient Greece;
- The problems of knowledge, existence and virtue: Dominant perspectives.
Modern answers to core philosophical questions:
- The philosophers of economics: Marx, Smith, Veblen, Keynes and Schumpeter;
- Contemporary schools of thought and unresolved problems;
- Views on the nature (and possibility) of (social) scientific knowledge;
- Eastern critiques of Western philosophical traditions: The rise of mindfulness.
Philosophies of organisations through philosophical lenses:
- Towering figures in organisational thought: Max Weber et al;
- Economic systems, varieties of capitalism and organisational forms;
- The neoclassical paradigm and the realist critique;
- The Darwinian legacy: Evolutionary approaches in the study of organisations;
- The psyche of organisations: Psychoanalytical and existentialist perspectives;
- Economic and organisational utopias.
Learning and Teaching
Teaching and learning methods
Teaching methods and learning activities:
Lectures will set out the background in familiarising students with topics in intellectual history. The second hour of each session will typically involve the drawing of links between various (typically abstract) approaches with more down-to-earth problems at the heart of contemporary management. Towards the end of each lecture students will be given an assignment for the class of the upcoming week. All assignments will converge in encouraging students to utilise philosophical perspectives and modes of thought in order to address quite concrete problems. Students will often have to take sides on a debate of a well-rehearsed dilemma. All lectures will have suggested reading material, which will typically be a combination of journal papers and book chapters. In addition, there will be visiting lectures (from Dr Gatenby and Dr Wainwright), whereas students will be strongly encouraged to attend related departmental seminars to be delivered by invited academics.
Learning activities include:
In class debate and discussion
Use of online material
|Completion of assessment task||40|
|Preparation for scheduled sessions||10|
|Wider reading or practice||40|
|Total study time||150|
Resources & Reading list
Philosophy of Management. Journal
Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.
Organization Studies. Journal
Academy of Management Review. Journal
Okasha, S. (2002). Philosophy of science: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.
Griseri, P. (2013). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Management. Sage.
Fuller, S. (2012). Knowledge management foundations. Routledge.
Blackburn, S (2001). Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Alvesson, M., Bridgman, T., & Willmott, H. (Eds.) (2009). The Oxford handbook of critical management studies. Oxford University Press.
Lipton, P. (2004). Inference to the best explanation. Psychology Press.
Morgan, G (1997). Images of Organization. Sage.
Perrow, C. (1986). Complex organisations: A critical essay. McGraw-Hill.
Heilbroner, R. L. (2011). The worldly philosophers: The lives, times and ideas of the great economic thinkers. Simon and Schuster.
Fleetwood, S., & Ackroyd, S. (Eds.) (2004). Critical realist applications in organisation and management studies. Psychology Press.
Hatch, M. J. (2012). Organization theory: Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives. Oxford University Press.
Tsoukas, H. (2005). Complex knowledge. Oxford University Press.
Pugh, D. S., & Hickson, D. J. (2007). Writers on organisations. Penguin.
Aldrich, H. (1999). Organisations evolving. Sage.
Griseri, P. (2001). Management Knowledge: A critical view. Palgrave.
Tsoukas, H., & Knudsen, C. (Eds.) (2005). The Oxford handbook of organization theory. Oxford University Press.
This is how we’ll give you feedback as you are learning. It is not a formal test or exam.Essay Set exercises - non-exam
This is how we’ll formally assess what you have learned in this module.
This is how we’ll assess you if you don’t meet the criteria to pass this module.
An internal repeat is where you take all of your modules again, including any you passed. An external repeat is where you only re-take the modules you failed.
Repeat type: Internal & External