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Book description

The book explores how various social settings are partially organized even when they do not form part of a formal organization. It also shows how even formal organizations may be only partially organized. Professors Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson first established the concept of partial organization in 2011 and in doing so opened up a ground-breaking new field of organizational analysis. An academic community has since developed around the concept, and Ahrne and Brunsson have edited this collection to reflect the current state of inquiry in this burgeoning subject and to set an agenda for future research. Its chapters explain how organization is a salient feature in many social settings, including markets, interfirm networks, social movements, criminal gangs, internet communication and family life. Organization theory is much more relevant for the understanding of social processes than previously assumed. This book provides a new understanding of many social phenomena and opens up new fields for organizational analysis.


‘In an imaginative move to renew and enlarge the scope of organization studies, Ahrne and Brunsson observe that organizational elements are no longer contained within the boundaries of discrete firms or agencies, but have broken up and flowed out to operate in varying combinations to create new partially organized entities in numerous social contexts. Together with their contributors, they examine their multiple guises in arenas as varied as markets, digital platforms, the sharing economy and ‘organized' crime. An insightful window into the changing structure of contemporary society.'

W. Richard Scott - Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Business, Education, Engineering, and Medicine, Stanford University

‘Ahrne and Brunsson have put together a wide-ranging set of studies of the rationalization of contemporary society outside formal organizations themselves. Markets generate rationalized structure, and so do interpersonal relationships, criminal groups, and globalized international life. It is all pulled together in this impressive book under the creative heading of ‘partial organization'.'

John W. Meyer - Stanford University

‘The theory of partial organization is the most innovative development in organizational theory in many years – It's particularly useful for areas such as financial markets that are often considered to be understructured and atomized. The book is immensely successful in putting the theory together with different empirical applications; in a global world, it is badly needed to explain the growing domain and power of dispersed collectives without clear governance structure that transcend national boundaries.'

Karin Knorr Cetina - Otto Borchert Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

'In markets, social movements, and everyday social life, we are increasingly confronted with forms of organized action that do not look like formal organization, from open source software to organized crime to Anonymous. Ahrne and Brunsson offer the concept of 'partial organization' to help make sense of these forms, and Organization Outside Organizations collects a sweeping set of contributions to this new and exciting literature.'

Jerry Davis - Associate Dean for Business and Impact, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

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