The Monstrous Organization

The Monstrous Organization

Torkild Thanem

Drawing on contemporary debates in organization theory, this book explores the monsters that populate organizations, what organizations do to these monsters, and how this challenges us to re-construct organization theory.

Chapter 2: Killing Monsters

Torkild Thanem

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies


He was a daemonic personality. (Loewenstein in Max Weber’s Political Ideas in the Perspective of Our Time)1 On 5 December 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued the Summis desiderantes affectibus. With ‘supreme passion’ he thereby ‘desired’ and authorized the systematic prosecution and killing of anyone who could be found guilty of witchcraft (Levack, 2006). During the following two centuries the Roman Catholic Church, one of the world’s oldest and largest surviving organizations, later joined by its Protestant counterparts, undertook one of the largest and most brutal mass killings of women in human history. The witch hunts are estimated to have caused between 60 000 and 100 000 deaths (see Barstow, 1994; Levack, 2006). Today, Western hospitals perform genital surgery on intersex infants and children in order to remove signs of genital ambiguity. Although intersex patients and pressure groups have caused physicians during the past decade or so to adopt a more cautious attitude to genital surgery, genital ambiguity is still regarded as a problem in need of resolution. However, organizations also tame, kill and exclude monsters in less obvious but perhaps more deep-rooted ways. Organizations kill the monstrous by demarcating themselves as bounded entities from their outside environment and by imposing divisions of labour that separate and regulate the interaction of the different levels, groups and departments that make up organizations. On its part, organization theory kills the monstrous by privileging the study of organizations as formal bounded entities and the divisions of labour by which these organizations are organized....

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