Social and Organizational Theories of Transformation


Professor Poul Fritz Kjær
Associate Professor Mathias Hein Jessen
Assistant Professor Lara Monticelli
Assistant Professor Birke Otto
Postdoc Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen
All from Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy.

Course coordinator
Professor Poul Fritz Kjær & Associate Professor Mathias Hein Jessen


There are no formal prerequisites other than that the student must be registered on compatible PhD-programme. In order to receive the course diploma, participants have to be present during the whole course period, have read the literature, engage actively in teaching and discussions. After the conclusion of the course, the student must submit an essay (max. 10 pages) engaging with the theories and discussions of the class in relation to the student’s own PhD-project.

Deadline for submission is 31st March 2023 in order to receive comments from teachers. Essays can be submitted for approval without comments until 28th April 2023. After this date, submissions cannot be made. Submission and approval of essay is necessary in order to be awarded ECTS-points.


We live in a world defined by crises and transformation. Environmental degradation, climate crisis, financial crisis, populism, Covid-19, falling legitimacy of political and economic elites and institutions, just to mention a few. As a result, organizations and businesses are increasingly focusing on transformation as a way to encounter the ‘crisis of legitimacy’ confronting the current setup of economy and society, just as politicians and policy-makers on all sides of the political spectrum calls for the economy to be more thoroughly (re-)embedded within society. 

This course enables the students to critically interrogate and analyse the foundations of the economy using the tools of social and organizational theory, as well as insights into alternative ways of imagining it. In order to understand, assess and facilitate transformation, we need to understand the current situation. The course introduces the students to a number of different approaches and understandings of what transformation is and how we can understand it, rooted in social and organizational theory. It also gives the student insights into both the dominant organizational and corporate forms, forms of economic thinking and rationalities, as well as into transformative potentials and alternative organizational forms.

Course content

Module 1: Theories of transformation

This module introduces to the course in general, the approach, the current problems and challenges that we encounter, as well as introducing to a number of social theory paradigms of transformation. It asks the fundamental question: where does transformation come from and who are the agents of transformation? It also outlines how transformation has been and can be thought.

Module 2: Transforming political economies

This module introduces to different ways of thinking the economy, economic relations and the role of organizations within it. It outlines the historical transformation in the conception and organization of political economies through the three paradigms of corporatism, neo-corporatism and governance, and proposes to look at transformation through competition (law).

Module 3: Transforming the corporation

This module goes into depth with the most dominant organization of our economy: the corporation. The module introduces to the history and evolution of the corporation form, and its congealment in the private, publicly owned multinational corporation. It also introduces to recent critical theories of the corporation and a political theory of the corporation as well as alternatives to the corporations and attempts to transform it through cooperatively- and worker-owned corporations, workplace democracy and purpose.

Module 4: Transforming capitalism

This module goes into depth with theories of capitalism, its development as well as different critiques of it. It also goes into discussions about forms of reimagining capitalism and alternative economies, societies and communities on the examples of pre-figurative politics, cooperatives and eco-villages.

Module 5:
Transforming organizing

This module focuses on the theory and practice of 'alternative organizations’ as discussed in management and organization studies. It explores the normative foundations, practices and challenges of organizing differently and interrogates alternative conceptions of innovation, leadership, diversity and digitalism that seek to challenge the prevailing dominance of shareholder value, growth and competition in capitalist organizing.

Teaching style
The course consists of 5 modules, each taking up a different theme. Each module consists of lectures, discussions and case work. Each module will introduce a theoretical and critical approach to a dominant aspect of our current economic situation, as well as approaches to its transformation.

Lecture plan

Day 1: Monday (20th February)

Module 1: Theories of transformation

12:30-13:00: Welcome and introduction (Poul F. Kjaer & Mathias Hein Jessen)

13.00-14:30 Session 1: Lecture: Paradigms of transformation (Poul F. Kjaer & Mathias Hein Jessen)

15:00-16:30: Session 2: Workshop: Introductions (Poul F. Kjaer & Mathias Hein Jessen)

18:30: Welcome dinner.

Day 2: Tuesday
(21st February)

Module 2: Transforming political economies

09.00-10.30: Session 3: Lecture: Three paradigms of political economy: corporatism, neo-corporatism and governance (Poul F. Kjaer)

11.00-12.30: Session 4: Lecture: Transformation through competition (law) (Poul F. Kjær)

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-15: 00 Session 5: Discussion: Transforming political economy (Poul F. Kjær)

Day 3: Wednesday
(22nd February)

Module 3: Transforming the corporation

09:00-10:30: Session 6: Lecture: Financialization and shareholder value maximization (Mathias Hein Jessen)

11:00-12:30: Session 7: Lecture: The political theory of the corporation (Mathias Hein Jessen)

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-15:00 Session 8: Lecture: Workplace democracy and democratic business (Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen)

Day 4: Thursday
(23rd February)

09:00-10:30: Session 9: Discussion: Transforming the corporation (Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen)

Module 4: Transforming capitalism

11:00-12:30: Session 10: Lecture: Defining, historicizing and criticizing capitalism (Lara Monticelli)

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-15:00: Session 11: Discussion: Re-imagining capitalism and its alternatives (Lara Monticelli)

Day 5: Friday
(24th February)

Module 5: Transforming organizing

09.00-10.30: Session 12: Lecture: Organizing for change: Strategies of alternative organizations (Birke Otto)

11.00-12.30: Session 13: Discussion: Transforming organizing (Birke Otto)

12:30-13:30: Lunch, evaluation and goodbye (Mathias Hein Jessen & Poul F. Kjær)

Learning objectives

The course offers insight into:

  • Various theoretical paradigms and approaches to transformation

  • Theoretical understandings of the relation between the economy and society, as well as contemporary challenges

  • Historical, contemporary and future transformations of corporate constitutions and organizational forms, e.g. stakeholder models, shareholder models, cooperative models

  • Economic, political, legal, sociological, philosophical and historical approaches to corporate and organizational forms and governance in a societal perspective, with a focus on societal legitimation struggles

  • Alternative organizational forms and other ways and approaches to transforming economy and society.




Seminar attendance

22,5 hours

Readings and class preparation

59,5 hours

Exam essay

30 hours


112 hours

1 ECTS=28 hours

Total for 4 ECTS=112 hours

Start date

End date




Course Literature

Module 1: Theories of transformation

Polanyi, K., (2001)[1944]. The Great Transformation. The Political and Economic Origins of our Time Boston: Beacon press. Chapter 5 & 6, ‘Evolution of the Market Pattern’ & ‘The Self-Regulating Market and the Fictitious Commodities: Labor, Land, and Money’, pp. 59-80.

Hayek, F.v. (1944). The Road to Serfdom, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (condensed version, published in the Reader’s Digest, April 1945 edition, pp. 39-70.

Block, F. (2001). ‘Introduction’. In K. Polanyi, The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press, pp. vii-xxxviii.

Module 2: Transforming political economies

Kjaer, P.F. (2014). ‘Towards a Sociology of Intermediary Institutions: The Role of Law in Corporatism, Neo-Corporatism and Governance’. In M. R. Madsen and C. Thornhill (eds.), Law and the Formation of Modern Europe: Perspectives from the Historical Sociology of Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 117 - 141.

Kjaer, P.F. (2015). ‘Context Construction through Competition: The Prerogative of Public Power, Intermediary Institutions and the Expansion of Statehood through Competition’, Distinktion, 16(2), pp. 146-166.

Module 3: Transforming the corporation

Anderson, E. (2019). Private government: How employers rule our lives (and why we don't talk about it). Princeton: Princeton University Press. Chapter 2: Private government, pp. 37-71.

Barkan, J. 2013. Corporate Sovereignty. Law and Government under Capitalism, Minnesota University Press, Introduction, pp. 1-18.

Blair, M.M. (2013). Corporate Personhood and the Corporate Persona, University of Illinois Law Review, pp. 775-820.

Ciepley, D. (2013). Beyond public and private: Toward a political theory of the corporation. American Political Science Review, 107(1), pp. 139-158.

Ferreras, I. (2017). Firms as political entities: Saving democracy through economic bicameralism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Introduction: ‘What about the Workers?’, pp. 1-20.

Friedman, M. (1970). ‘A Friedman doctrine – The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits‘, The New York Times, September 13.

Module 4: Transforming capitalism

Mazzucato, M. (2021). Mission Economy. A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (2021). London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books. Chapter 6: ’Good Theory, Good Practice: Seven Principles for a New Political Economy’, pp. 163-203.

Gibson-Graham, J.K., Cameron, J. & Healy, S. (2013). Take Back the Economy. An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Chapter 1: ’Reframing the Economy, Reframing Ourselves’, pp. 1-16.

Fraser, N. & Jaeggi, R. (2018). Capitalism. A Conversation in Critical Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press. Chapter 1: ’Conceptualizing Capitalism’, pp. 13-47 (until the end of the paragraph).

Wright, E. O. (2019). How to Be an Anti-Capitalist in the 21st Century. London: Verso Books. Chapter 3: ’Varieties of Anticapitalism’, pp. 37-64.

Henderson, R. (2020). Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire. New York: Public Affairs. Chapter 2: ’Reimagining Capitalism in Practice. Welcome to the World’s Most Important Conversation’, pp.31-47.

Clarence-Smith, S. & Monticelli, L. (2022). ‘Flexible institutionalisation in Auroville: a prefigurative alternative to development’, Sustainability Science, first online 1. March, pp. 1-12.

Module 5: Transforming organizing

Chen, K.K. & Chen, V.T. (2021). ‘“What If” and “If Only” Futures Beyond Conventional Capitalism and Bureaucracy: Imagining Collectivist and Democratic Possibilities for Organizing’, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, (72), pp. 1-28. 

Davis, G. F. (2016). ‘Can an Economy Survive Without Corporations? Technology and Robust Organizational Alternatives.’ Academy of Management Perspectives, 30(2), pp. 129–140.

Rothschild-Whitt, J. (1979). ‘The Collectivist Organization: An Alternative to Rational-Bureaucratic Organizations’. American Sociological Review, 44, pp. 509–527.

Gümüsay, A. A., & Reinecke, J. (2022). ‘Researching for Desirable Futures: From Real Utopias to Imagining Alternatives’. Journal of Management Studies, 59(1), pp. 236-242.

Johnsen, C.G., Olaison, L. & Sørensen, B.M., (2018). ‘Put your style at stake: A new use of sustainable entrepreneurship’, Organization Studies 39(2-3), pp. 397–415.

DKK 5.200,-

Minimum number of participants

Maximum number of participants

Copenhagen Business School
Porcelænshaven 16B
2000 Frederiksberg
Room: PH16B, 1.18 (first floor)

Contact information
For administrative issues: 
Nina Iversen
CBS PhD Support

For course related issues:
Associate Professor Mathias Hein Jessen
Department of Managemnet, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)

Registration deadline

Please note that your registration is binding after the registration deadline.

In case we receive more registrations for the course than we have place, the registrations will be prioritized in the following order: Students from CBS departments, students from other institutions than CBS. 
Register here