1st Edition

Organizations A Systems Approach

By Stefan Kühl Copyright 2014

    From businesses, public administrations, universities and schools, to hospitals, prisons, political parties, or the military, peoples’ lives are inextricably bound up with organizations from cradle to grave. Yet we receive little training in how - as members, customers, voters, or patients - to deal with them. In Organizations Stefan Kühl asks and answers many questions. What are these entities that wield such strong influence in our society? What makes them tick? What are our options for intervening, either from within or without? This book explains how organizations function by examining their three central features: their purposes or goals, their hierarchies, and their memberships. The author presents the three aspects of organizations - the display, formal, and informal aspects, explaining them in metaphorical terms as façades, machines, and games. Acknowledging that the seminal systems theory developed by sociologist Niklas Luhmann is not easily accessible, Professor Kühl presents Luhmann’s organizational concept in a succinct and user-friendly form that will be readily grasped by a practitioner audience and provides new insights in this ambitious theory.

    About the Author, 1. Organizations: What Are They, Actually?, 2. Membership, Goals, and Hierarchies, 3. Machines, Games, and Façades: The Three Aspects of an Organization, 4. Beyond the Iceberg Metaphor: The Possibilities and Limitations of Communicating about Organizations, Annex: A Somewhat Longer Justification for a Brief Introduction into the System Approach, References, Index


    Stefan Kühl studied sociology, historical science and economics at the University of Bielefeld, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Université Paris-X-Nanterre, and the University of Oxford. He is a professor of organizational sociology at the University of Bielefeld and one of the leading system theorists working in the field of organizational science. He works as an organizational consultant for Metaplan, a consulting firm based in Princeton in the USA, Paris, Hamburg and Zürich.