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The University of Southampton

MANG2057 Philosophy of Management and Organisations

Module Overview

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

Module Aims

to familiarise students with philosophical modes of inquiry and appreciate their relevance for understanding and managing complex organisations.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the indecisive nature of managerial knowledge;
  • 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);
  • the value of transparent thinking in gaining charge of our beliefs and decision making processes;
  • the salience of using alternative philosophical lenses in evaluating managerial problems and developing balanced and undogmatic understandings.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • explain basic philosophical concepts;
  • identify different schools of thought;
  • recognise the intellectual foundations of core management theories 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 tools in order to refine your thinking processes and write more compelling arguments;
  • use a wide range of intellectual ideas in order to enrich your arguments;
  • write well-crafted essays and present them in a well-structured manner;
  • conduct independent bibliographical research.


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: Individual/group assignments In class debate and discussion Private study Use of online material

Preparation for scheduled sessions10
Completion of assessment task40
Follow-up work12
Wider reading or practice40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Morgan, G (1997). Images of Organization. 

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. 

Fuller, S. (2012). Knowledge management foundations. 

Organization. Journal

Aldrich, H. (1999). Organisations evolving. 

Fleetwood, S., & Ackroyd, S. (Eds.) (2004). Critical realist applications in organisation and management studies. 

Tsoukas, H. (2005). Complex knowledge. 

Tsoukas, H., & Knudsen, C. (Eds.) (2005). The Oxford handbook of organization theory. 

Blackburn, S (2001). Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy. 

Lipton, P. (2004). Inference to the best explanation. 

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

Hatch, M. J. (2012). Organization theory: Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives. 

Griseri, P. (2001). Management Knowledge: A critical view. 

Organization Studies. Journal

Perrow, C. (1986). Complex organisations: A critical essay. 

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

Okasha, S. (2002). Philosophy of science: A very short introduction. 

Alvesson, M., Bridgman, T., & Willmott, H. (Eds.) (2009). The Oxford handbook of critical management studies. 

Academy of Management Review. Journal

Heilbroner, R. L. (2011). The worldly philosophers: The lives, times and ideas of the great economic thinkers. 

Philosophy of Management. Journal



Set exercises - non-exam


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 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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