Sociology of Organizations

Course content

Organizational sociology is a fascinating subject because it is applied science dealing with ’living people’. Within modern and thus highly differentiated societies most functions essential to the reproduction of society are carried out by organizations. Consequently, most people are involved in one or more organizations.

Theories about organizations are manifold, and considered in a historical perspective they have changed with the development of the industrial society. Consequently, it is important to consider their origins as well as their relationship to other research fields dealing with organizations such as economy and political science.

Within organizational theories, the analysis of the relationship between participants, structure, processes and culture is essential for understanding how organizations are able to achieve their goals. Organizations were by and large considered as closed systems during the first half of the 20th century, either as hierarchical industrial production or as administrative bureaucracy. However, the importance of the environment with regard to the development of the internal as well as external relationships of organizations has since been emphasised. Within the analysis of such open systems, the shift of perspective is mirrored in a wide range of organizational sociological positions today, i.e. institutional, action theoretical (RC), systems theoretical, structuration theoretical, cultural (symbolic interactionism and phenomenology), feminist approaches as well as inspiration from postmodern critique and french pragmatic concepts.

During the course it will be demonstrated how these theoretical approached may be applied to various degrees when analysing different types of organizations. These organizations comprise industry, services, public administration, interest representation, states, transnational co-ordination (e.g. the EU), but also networks of so-called intermediate organizations between the welfare state and the marked (e.g. voluntarily work). The course will provide an illustration of the discussion of the different theoretical approached by drawing on existing empirical analysis of relevant types of organizations, ranging from kindergartens to states or transnational institutions. During the course the students will be encouraged to use a case when illustrating their discussion of one or more organisational sociological positions. This might be the case in private, public or voluntary sector organizations. 


Elective course

Course package (MSc 2015):

Welfare, inequality and mobility
Knowledge, organisation and politics
Culture, lifestyle and everyday life

Learning outcome

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course and having completed the essential readings and activities students should be able to demonstrate



a) knowledge of core theories in the field of the sociology of organizations

b) analyse organizations by application of relevant theoretical approaches

c) knowledge about how to design and carry out a research project, based on a will defined research question



d) assess how changes in organisational strategies, structures and processes influence on the achievement of organizational targets



e) identify objectives for further studies in the field of organizational sociology, including comparative perspectives,

f) critically classify the position of organizational sociology in relation to its neighbouring disciplines.


Due to the covid19 situation the teaching in autumn semester 2020 is as follows:

• The teaching are on campus with rotating groups
• The teaching are available online too.

Always remember to check Absalon for the latest updates.


Lectures including discussion. During the course, students will be encouraged to apply the acquired theoretical and methodological approaches on selected cases, e.g. by using some of the planed enterprise visits (Small and Medium sized Enterprises - SMEs), public sector organizations or voluntary organizations where meetings with managers or employee representatives will be organized.

e-Compendium: Parts of the textbooks by Richard Scott and Mary Jo Hatch will firstly introduce to the overarching concepts, regarding structure, culture, management and change in organisations. Topics such as learning (e.g. Argyris & Schön), gender (e.g. Gherardi and Due Billing), networks (e.g. Walter Powell) and ANT (Porsander), the civil society (Habermann) will be discussed in the context of organisational studies. Finally, various further perspectives on organisations such as postmodernism (e.g. Alversson), systems theory (Luhmann) and radical critique (Türk) are included.

The extent of the course literature will be 600-700 pages (7,5 ETCS).

Basic knowledge in the field of sociology might be an advantage but not necessary.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

During the course, the students will be encouraged to present their topics and ideas in group discussions with the other students. Individual presentations for the class may also be a possibility.

Students may expect to receive individual advice during the course, regarding the making of their individual academic essay.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio, Submission dates and time will be available at KUnet
Individual or group.
A portfolio assignment is defined as a series of short assignments during the course that address one or more set questions and feedback is offered during the course. All of the assignments are submitted together for assessment at the end of the course.
The portfolio assignments must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Exercises
  • 26
  • Exam Preparation
  • 25
  • Exam
  • 27
  • English
  • 206