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ephemera: theory & politics in organization

CALL FOR PAPERS: 15th February 2014:

Conference organizers: Ole Bjerg, Christian Garmann Johnsen, Bent Meier Sørensen and Lena Olaison

Conference date: 8-9 of May 2014

Conference venue: Copenhagen Business School, Denmark


Perpetual economic growth is an underlying assumption of the contemporary capitalist organization of society. The idea of growth is embedded not only in the corpus of economic thought but also in the institutions of the economy (Binswanger, 2013; Gorz, 2012). More recently, entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity have been seen as possible ways to solve the current economic and environmental crisis as well as to generate growth (Schaper, 2002). This is the case because entrepreneurship and innovation are portrayed as seeds of new initiatives and ideas that will boost economic development while simultaneously reduce its impact on the climate. Such a belief has produced new markets, such as carbon markets, and an emerging ‘climate capitalism’ (Böhm, Murtola and Spoelstra, 2012). At the heart of this logic is a faith in the individual economic actor, not least the entrepreneur, as a gifted individual with unique abilities (Shane, 2003). And it is evident that the current post-crisis discourse keeps its confidence in the emergent socially responsible economic actor who will contribute to the construction of a moral economy’ (Arvidsson, 2013).

This ephemera conference seeks to question the feasibility, moral legitimacy and sustainability of perpetual economic growth. Although contested, current political and popular beliefs tend to hold that the twin crises of economy and ecology are merely temporary, exceptional phenomena and that the global economy will soon bounce back to business as usual. However, others have suggested that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the nature of capitalism (Heinberg, 2011). Instead of using our energies to prevent this shift from happening it may be more fruitful to appreciate the opportunities for reflection that are offered by the crisis. On the one hand, we should learn from history and see that the history of capitalism is indeed the history of revolutions. This suggests that we indeed may be at the brink of a new phase in society where we experience a change in the underlying structures. On the other hand, we can explore new forms of economic organization that do not rest upon the condition of growth (Schumacher, 1973; Latouche, 2009; Eisenstein, 2011). Even though the prerequisite of growth has been subjected to criticism within economic theory (Herrera, 2011), we need to further explore its implications. Taken together, the challenge is, in other words, to imagine what a sustainable post-growth economy might look like (Gorz, 1999; Seidl, 2010; Paech, 2012).

If growth is intrinsic to the current capitalist organization of society, then we need to ask to what extent it is possible to image a system that does not presuppose perpetual growth. Is economy without growth a contradiction in terms? We can approach the seeming paradox of the post-growth economy by rethinking fundamental economic concepts in today’s capitalist society. Since the value of growth seems to be deeply embedded in many of the most basic economic concepts used today, we therefore need to reconsider from the perspective of a post-growth economy: What is a market without growth? What is the role of entrepreneurship? And consumption? What would constitute organization and work? What is money? And most importantly of all, what is economic growth? These questions may be approached theoretically by analysing their implicit assumptions connected with the paradigm of growth-oriented capitalism (e.g. Daly, 1996), or they may be explored empirically by studying actual practices of alternative economic organization (e.g. North, 2010), such as, for example, slow food movements and direct trade.

The aim of a conference on a post-growth economy is not solely or even primarily to produce new knowledge but instead to think about what to do with the knowledge that we already have. Certainly, the problem of growth is nothing new. Since at least the end of the 1960s, it has been known that the expansion of the capitalist economy would eventually run up against the natural boundaries of earth (Carson, 2000; Measows et al., 1972; Georgescu-Roegen, 1971). The most pressing problem today with regards to sustainability is not that we do not know what to do; rather, the problem is that even though we know very well what to do, we are still not doing it. In other words, we know very know that current level of pollution caused by fossil fuels is not sustainable from a long-term point of view. Yet, by maintaining the current level of production and consumption, we behave as if it is. There is therefore an aspect of cynicism, in Sloterdijk’s sense of the term, which needs to be addressed in relation to sustainability and contemporary capitalism.

The ambition of this conference is thus to bring together researchers, practitioners and activists who share an interest in the issue of economic growth and sustainability. We particularly welcome submissions that explore the paradoxes of a post-growth economy and the interrelated themes of sustainability and entrepreneurship, alongside an exploration of the cultural and political context out of which they have emerged.


Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

* What is post-growth economy?

* What would count as work in a post-growth economy?

* What should management be like in a post-growth economy?

* What is the role of entrepreneurship in a post-growth economy?

* What constitute organization in a post-growth economy?

* What is the role of finance and debt in a post-growth economy?

* What would consumption be like in a post-growth economy?


Deadlines, conference fee and further information

The conference takes place at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, 8-9 of May 2014. The conference is organized by the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy. The conference is associated with the Sustainability platform and the Entrepreneurship platform at CBS.

The extended deadline for submitting abstracts is 15 February 2014. The abstracts, of no more than 500 words, should be submitted in the format of a Word document to the mail address: postgrowth2014 AT ephemera encourages contributions in a variety of formats including articles, notes, interviews, book reviews, photo essays and other experimental modes of representation. The conference fee has not been set yet, as it is dependent on the number of participants, but will be kept to a minimum, approximately €100. PhD candidates pay a reduced fee, most likely €50. Further information about the conference can be found on the conference website: If you have any queries, you can also contact one of the conference organizers: Ole Bjerg (ob.mpp AT, Christian Garmann Johnsen (cgj.mpp AT, Bent Meier Sørensen (bem.mpp AT, Lena Olaison (lo.mpp AT Conference participants are encouraged to submit their contributions to the Special Issue on Post-growth economy in ephemera that will be published 2015.



Arvidsson, A. (2013) ‘The potential of consumer publics’, ephemera, 13(2): 367-391.
Binswanger, H.C. (2013) Die Wachstumsspirale: Geld, Energie und Imagination in der Dynamik des Marktprozesses. Marburg: Metropolis-Verlag.
Böhm, S., AM Murtola and S. Spoelstra (2012 eds.) ‘The atmosphere business’, ephemera, 12(1/2): 1-11.
Carson, R. (2000) Silent Spring. London: Penguin.
Daly, H. (1996) Beyond growth: The economics of sustainable development. Boston: Beacon Press.
Eisenstein, C. (2011) Sacred economics: Money, gift, & society in the age of transition. Berkeley, Calif.: Evolver Editions.
Georgescu-Roegen, N. (1971) The entropy law and the economic process. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Gorz, A. (1999) Reclaiming work: Beyond the wage-based society. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Pressl.
Gorz, A. (2012) Capitalism, socialism, ecology. New York: Verso.
Heinberg, R. (2011) The end of growth: Adapting to our new economic reality. Forest Row: Clairview.
Herrera, R. (2011) ’A critique of mainstream growth theory: Ways out of the neoclassical science (-fiction) and toward marxism’, in P. Zarembka and R. Desai (eds.) Revitalizing marxist theory for today’s capitalism (research in political economy, Vol 27). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Latouche, S. (2009) Farewell to growth. Cambridge, MA: Polity.
Measows, D., H. Meadows, D.L. Meadows, J. Randers and W.W. Behrens III (1972) The limits to growth: A report for THE CLUB OF ROME’S project on the predicament of mankind. New York: Universe Books.
North, P. (2010) Local money: How to make it happen in your community. Totnes: Transition Books.
Paech, N. (2012) Befreiung vom Überfluss: auf dem Weg in die Postwachstumsökonomie. München: oekom verlag.
Schumacher, E.F. (1973) Small is beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered. London: Vintage.
Shane, S. (2003) A general theory of entrepreneurship. The individual-opportunity nexus, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Seidl, I. (2010) Postwachstumsgesellschaft: neue Konzepte für die Zukunft. Marburg: Metropolis.





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Just off the press from Brill — Toward a Dialectic of Philosophy and Organization, by Eugene Gogol 

Toward a Dialectic of Philosophy and Organization is an exploration of Hegel’s dialectic and its radical re-creation in Marx’s thought within the context of revolutions and revolutionary organizations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Does a dialectic in philosophy itself bring forth a dialectic in revolutionary organization? This question is explored via organizational practices in the Paris Commune, the 2nd International, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Spanish Revolution of 1936-37 and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, as well as the theoretical-organizational concepts of such thinkers as Lassalle, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky and Pannekoek.

“What Philosophic-Organizational Vantage Point Is Needed for Revolutionary Transformation Today?” is examined by engaging the theoretical arguments of a number of thinkers. Among them: Adorno, Dunayevskaya, Hardt and Negri, Holloway, Lebowitz, Lukcás, Mészáros and Postone.

Table of contents

Introduction: Philosophy, Organization, and the Work of Raya Dunayevskaya
Prologue: The Dialectic in Philosophy Itself

1: Marx’s Concept of Organization: From the Silesian Weavers’ Uprising to the First Years of the International Workingmen’s Association
2: The Commune of Paris, 1871: Mass Spontaneity in Action and Thought; Responsibility of the Revolutionary Intellectual: The Two-War Road Between Marx and the Commune
3: The Second International, The German Social Democracy, and Engels after Marx—Organization without Marx’s Organization of Thought
4: The 1905 Russian Revolution: Mass Proletarian Self-Activity and Its Relation to the Organizational Thought of Marxist Revolutionaries
5: The Russian Revolution of 1917 and Beyond
6: Out of the Russia Revolution: Legacy and Critique—Luxemburg, Pannekoek, Trotsky
7: Organizational Forms from the Spanish Revolution
8: The Hungarian Workers’ Councils in the Revolution: A Movement from Practice that Is a Form of Theory 

9: Can “Absolute Knowing” in Hegel’s Phenomenology Speak to a Dialectic of Organization and Philosophy?
10: Rereading Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program Today

11: Lenin and Hegel—The Profound Philosophic Breakthrough that Failed to Encompass Revolutionary Organization
12: Hegel’s Critique of the Third Attitude to Objectivity—Its Relation to Organization

13: Moments in the Development of Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism

14: What Philosophic-Organizational Vantage Point Is Needed?


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Call for Papers on ‘Work, Play & Boredom’ for an ephemera Conference at University of St. Andrews, 5-7 May 2010. Deadline for abstracts: 31 January 2010.

In recent years, play has become an abiding concern in the popular business literature and a crucial aspect of organizational culture. While managerial interest in play has certainly been with us for some time, there is a sense that organizations are becoming ever-more receptive to incorporating fun and frivolity into everyday working life. Team-building exercises, simulation games, puzzle-solving activities, office parties, themed dress-down days, and colourful, aesthetically-stimulating workplaces are notable examples of this trend. Through play, employees are encouraged to express themselves and their capabilities, thus enhancing job satisfaction, motivation, and commitment. Play also serves to unleash an untapped creative potential in management thinking that will supposedly result in innovative product design, imaginative marketing strategies and, ultimately, superior organizational performance. Play, it seems, is a very serious business indeed.

But this has not always been the case. Until very recently, play was seen as the antithesis of work. Classical industrial theory, for examples, hinges on a fundamental distinction between waged labour and recreation. Play at work is thought to pose a threat not only to labour discipline, but also to the very basis of the wage bargain: in exchange for a day’s pay, workers are expected to leave their pleasures at home. Given this context, we can well understand Adorno’s (1978: 228) comment that the purposeless play of children – completely detached from selling one’s labour to earn a living – unconsciously rehearses the ‘right life’. But play no longer holds the promise of life after capitalism, as it once did for Adorno; today, the ‘unreality of games’ is fully incorporated within the reality of  
organizations. When employees are urged to reach out to their ‘inner child’ (Miller, 1997: 255), it becomes clear that the traditional boundary between work and play is in the process of being demolished.

A certain utopianism underpins contemporary debates about play at work, evoking the pre-Lapsarian ideal of a happy life without hard work. In this respect, organizations seem to have taken notice of Burke’s (1971: 47) compelling vision of paradise: ‘My formula for utopia is simple: it is a community in which everyone plays at work and works at play. Anything less would fail to satisfy me for long’. But such idealism is not necessarily desirable. For while play promises to relieve the monotony and boredom of work, it is intimately connected to new forms of management control: it is part of the panoply of techniques that seek to align the personal desires of workers with bottom-line corporate objectives. We should not be surprised, then, when an overbearing emphasis on fun in the workplace leads to cynicism, alienation, and resentment from employees (Fleming, 2005).

While play at work has been extensively discussed in the popular and academic literature, the role of boredom in organisations has been somewhat neglected. It seems that boredom is destined to share the fate of other ‘negative emotions’, such as anger and contempt, which have generally been silenced in organization studies (Pelzer 2005). But boredom remains an important part of organisational life. As Walter Benjamin (1999: 105) observes, ‘we are bored when we don’t know what we are waiting for’. Boredom thus contains a sense of anticipation, even promise: ‘Boredom is the threshold to great deeds’ (ibid.). Since capitalism is preoccupied with fun and games, perhaps it is boredom rather than play that now serves unconsciously to rehearse the ‘right life’ in contemporary times.

This ephemera conference and special issue ask its participants to explore the interrelated themes of work, play, and boredom alongside an exploration of the cultural and political context out of which they have emerged.

Possible topics include:
–    The politics of play
–    Play and reality
–    Anthropology of play
–    Play and utopia
–    The boredom of play
–    Boredom as resistance
–    Identity and authenticity when played
–    The blurring of work and play
–    Playfulness at work
–    Creativity and play
–    Experience economy
–    Management games
–    Cultures of fun
–    Play and pedagogy
–    Seriousness and indifference
–    Foolishness and fooling around
–    Tedium and repetition
–    Humour, jokes, and cynicism
–    Childishness and management
–    Invention and innovation through play
–    Organizing spontaneity

The best papers of the conference will be published in a special issue of ephemera.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
Professor Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen, Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Author of many books, including his recent Power at Play: The Relationship between Play, Work and Governance (2009, Palgrave Macmillan).

Professor René ten Bos, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. His many books include Fashion and Utopia in Management Thinking (John Benjamins, 2000).

Dates and Location:

5-7 May 2010 at School of Management, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK.

Deadline, Conference Website, and Further Information:

The deadline for abstracts is 31 January 2010. The abstracts should be submitted as a Word document to Martyna Sliwa at  The conference fee has not been set yet, as it is dependent on the number of participants, but will be kept to a minimum. PhD candidates pay a reduced fee.

Further information about the conference can be found on the conference website: With queries, you can also contact one of the conference organizers: Bent Meier Sørensen (, Lena Olaison (, Martyna Sliwa (, Nick Butler (, Stephen Dunne (, Sverre Spoelstra (


Adorno, T. (1978) Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life. London and New York: Verso.
Benjamin, W. (1999) The Arcades Project. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press.
Burke, R. (1971) ‘“Work” and “play”’, Ethics, 82(1): 33-47.
Fleming, P. (2005) ‘Workers’ playtime? Boundaries and cynicism in a “culture of fun” programme’, Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 41(3): 285-303.
Miller, J. (1997) ‘All work and no play may be harming your business’, Management Development Review, 10(6/7): 254-255.
Pelzer, P. (2005) ‘Contempt and organization: Present in practice – Ignored by research?’ Organization Studies, 26(8): 1217-1227.

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