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Apelt, Maja; Besio, Cristina; Corsi, Giancarlo; Groddeck, Victoria von; Grothe-Hammer, Michael and Tacke, Veronika (2017): Resurrecting organization without renouncing society: A response to Ahrne, Brunsson and Seidl. In: European Management Journal, Vol. 35, No. 1: pp. 8-14

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In a recent article in this journal, Ahrne, Brunsson, and Seidl (2016) suggest a definition of organization as a 'decided social order' composed of five elements (membership, rules, hierarchies, monitoring, and sanctions) which rest on decisions. 'Partial organization' uses only one or a few of these decidable elements while 'complete organization' uses them all. Such decided orders may also occur outside formal organizations, as the authors observe. Although we appreciate the idea of improving our understanding of organization(s) in modern society, we believe that Ahrne, Brunsson, and Seidl's suggestion jeopardizes the concept of organization by blurring its specific meaning. As the authors already draw on the work of Niklas Luhmann, we propose taking this exploration a step further and the potential of systems theory more seriously. Organizational analysis would then be able to retain a distinctive notion of formal organization on the one hand while benefiting from an encompassing theory of modern society on the other. With this extended conceptual framework, we would expect to gain a deeper understanding of how organizations implement and shape different societal realms as well as mediate between their particular logics, and, not least, how they are related to non-organizational social forms (e.g. families).

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