1st Edition

The Organization of Things A Cabinet of Curiosities

By Martin Parker Copyright 2025
    348 Pages
    by Routledge

    348 Pages
    by Routledge

    This is a book about knowledge and how it is organized.

    The business school has captured ideas about organization, and reduced them to questions of formal structures, documented processes, logistics and operations. This book shows how the concept can be understood more generously by illuminating the fundamental importance of culture to our understanding of organization. Using the idea of a cabinet of curiosities, the author shows how we can learn a lot about authority from choirs of angels, about secrecy from shipping containers, or work from art galleries. In disorganizing categories, forcing unusual conjunctions, the work opens itself to organization studies and studies of organizing, as well as cultural sociology, human geography, and social theory.

    Bringing together arguments developed over the last two decades, this book brings together and updates work that will provide a unique and valuable reference for students and scholars of management and organization around the world.

    Part One: Fascinations 1. Concepts and Methods 2. The Culture of Organizing Part Two: Assembly 3. Art 4. The Zoo 5. Tower Cranes Part Three: Hierarchy 6. Angels 7. Skyscrapers 8. Super Flat Part Four: Visibility 9. Gothic 10. Secret Societies 11. James Bond Part Five: Movement 12. Shipping Containers 13. Rockets 14. The Circus Part Six: Reorganization 15. The Order of Things

    Biography

    Martin Parker is Professor in the Business School at the University of Bristol, UK.

    "To call Martin Parker the most creative and entertaining living theorist of organisation is not to say enough.  First because he cannot be contained by such a limited discipline or the business schools that house it. And second because he is properly a wizard of disorganization and disorder, and absolutely invaluable for it.  Parker's genius is to find the sublime where others have abandoned it. And in his prose, by turns radiant and hilarious, he steals something from the mundanity of the organized world for all of us.  There is no one like him in organisation studies, and few beyond." Stefano Harney, Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Germany.

    "This is a collection of remarkable ideas brought back by Parker from his intellectual marginal meanderings as well as an invitation to discover different ways of seeing and to re-order thoughts and preconceptions. The book shows that there are alternatives aplenty, and the principles of organization are far more strange than the mainstream handbooks uphold. We have been duped to accept management by not-seeing. There is a good reason why Martin Parker’s texts are enthusiastically read and appreciated by students all over the world: they help to un-accept the unacceptable." Monika Kostera, University of Warsaw, Poland.

    "Professor Parker’s ‘beachcombing’ for a cabinet of curiosities is a marvel of assemblage. His content is widely drawn, his style is engaging and provocative, his methods involve collecting things that have caught his eye. This profound book represents deep dives into many organizational ‘cenotes’ both surrounding and revealing a wider structure of historical impact. Each entertaining analysis proclaims that organization is always a process which simultaneously involves disorganization." Gibson Burrell, University of York, UK.

    "A beautifully curated whole, the book shows us how ordering and classification are ways of organizing intelligibility. The collection of objects that Parker takes us through illustrate how this is not simply an ontological or epistemological point but also a political one, because in seeing certain possibilities we do not see others. The outcome of years of collecting things, concepts, and materials, the endlessly fascinating Cabinet of Curiosities tells us something vital about how we organise not just resources, supply chains etc, but what it means to be human, and why we do it the way we do. The items and ideas Parker has carefully laid out for our delectation show us why we need to imagine, and enact, organizing differently." Melissa Tyler, Essex University, UK. 

    "Books about organizations too often offer hackneyed statements of the obvious, riddled with ideologically saturated saccharine meanderings of marginal importance.  Martin Parker’s The Organization of Things defies that convention with style and grace.  Reflecting on everything from skyscrapers, to James Bond to circuses, Parker blazes the trail on an intellectual adventure on which few other would dare to embark. If you want your thinking to be challenged, extended and provoked, read this book." Carl Rhodes, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.

    "Who wouldn’t be drawn to a book that is characterized from the outset as a gallimaufry? This fascinating medley is drawn together by speculation on what we can learn from objects and characters about organizing, organization, and disorganization. Martin Parker draws the reader in with characteristic levity and wonderful writing, prompting us to think about our obsessions and how those might allow us to understand more about (dis)organizing processes. This is a book which disrupts traditional disciplinary boundaries without falling prey to the often empty signifiers of inter- and multidisciplinarity.” Jo Brewis, The Open University, UK.

    "Immerse yourself in Martin Parker’s enthralling Wunderkammer of organization, where tower cranes rub necks with angels and secret societies share space with shipping containers and zoos. Eccentric? Wonderfully so. And utterly timely: Parker makes organization strange, and this book teaches us how to marvel at and reimagine the forms it can take. In times of depletion and devastation wrought by organizations as we know them, what could be more important?“ Timon Beyes, Leuphana University, Germany.

    “In this provocative and innovative text, Martin Parker asks us to break out of mainstream thinking on organizations and organizing. Counterintuitive and even downright strange alternatives are floated to help us organize more generously, less formally, and more aware of the cultures we inhabit. The Organization of Things is a must read for anyone interested in organizing as a social and political process rather than a fixed and reified outcome.” Penny Dick, University of Sheffield, UK.