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The ghost in the organism
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School. (Management & Organisation)
Victoria University of Wellington.
2002 (English)In: Organization Studies, ISSN 17413044, Vol. 23, no 5, 817-839 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The emergence of the idea that organizations are like organisms is generally seen as having saved organization studies (OS) from its mechanistic precepts. We argue that it has not. Rather, the mechanistic underpinnings of organization merely found a new medium of expression in the organism metaphor. This is largely due to the particular legacy that first informed so-called organic thinking about organizations in the 20th century. This essai investigates the history of the words organization and organism and asks how it became possible for one to be used as a metaphor for the other. Then it examines the way that the organism was brought into the fold of organization so as to reinforce the Modernist and mechanistic underpinnings of the field. We conclude that if the mechanistic ghost in the organism is to be exorcised, OS needs to recognize and rethink these underlying premises. Towards this end, we offer two alternative ways of thinking organization via the organism: one pre-Modem and one post-Modern.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Sage , 2002. Vol. 23, no 5, 817-839 p.
Keyword [en]
organization, organism, mechanism, metaphor, history
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-52447DOI: 10.1177/0170840602235006OAI: diva2:387662
Available from: 2011-01-14 Created: 2011-01-14 Last updated: 2015-10-29Bibliographically approved

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Thanem, Torkild
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Stockholm Business School
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