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The 24th EGOS Colloquium 2008  

General Theme


Postdoctoral pre-colloquium workshop

PhD pre-colloquium workshop

Roland Calori Prize

EGOS Best Paper Award
EGOS Best Student Paper Award

Organizing Committee

Fees and Registration


Tourist Information


Sub-theme 46:

Conceptualizing, Organizing, and Managing Cities



Kees Boersma
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Stewart R. Clegg
University of Technology Sydney (Australia)

Barbara Czarniawska
Göteborg University (Sweden)

Martin Kornberger
University of Technology, Sydney (Australia)

Call for papers

Cities are inextricably linked with organization as Marx and Engels argued in the Communist Manifesto (1952) 'The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.' In fact, cities and the development of a society of organizations (Perrow, 1991) are inextricably linked to each other.

It has been suggested that the 21st century will be the first truly urban century: more than 50% of all people already live in cities. Future scenarios suggest that in the next 50 years this number will increase up to 75%, with most people living in urban areas with more than 20 million people (Burdett, 2006).

Responding to this development, our proposed sub-theme asks scholars to conceptualize and investigate cities from an organizational perspective. Our theoretical assumption is that cities are forever contested and negotiated spaces in which a large number of different stakeholders organize themselves. Building on scholars such as Oswald Spengler's Soul of the City or George Simmel's The Metropolis and Mental Life, we suggest that cities have a fundamental impact on the individual, organizational and societal. As Simmel put it the city transforms human values from those of 'the general "human being" in every individual' to an emphasis on 'qualitative uniqueness and irreplaceability … It is the function of the metropolis area for this struggle and its reconciliation …The metropolis reveals itself as one of those great historical formations in which opposing streams which enclose life unfold, as well as join one another with equal right' (Simmel, 1969, p. 60).

Cities also give rise to new functions and characters. As Robert Park suggested, 'characteristic products of the conditions of city life' (1969, p. 103) include new professions such as reporter, bartender, stockbroker, shop-girl, police officer etc; hence, cities do not so much accommodate organizations as trigger and give rise to the development of new organizational constellations.

Moreover, the city gives rise to innovation. As Wirth argued, 'The city has thus historically been the melting pot of races, peoples, and cultures, and a most favourable breeding ground of new biological and cultural hybrids. It has not only tolerated but rewarded individual differences. It has brought together people from the ends of the earth because they are different and thus useful to another, rather than because they are homogenous and like-minded' (1969, p. 150). Hence cities might be the drivers of dynamic cultural development; but if not managed (or maybe because they are managed?) diversity can transform into barriers and exclusion.

Finally, in line with the overall conference theme, our proposed sub-theme suggests that we focus on the 'dark side' of cities, by inquiring into control and domination in and through cities (e.g., the role of CCTV supervision, privatization of public space, colonization of space, urban regeneration and re-development and its effects of settled forms of life, etc.). Also we suggest scrutinizing the pernicious role that urban planning has sometimes played, as well as the dreams, sometimes dystopic, that have defined the futures that we ended up living in. As Sudjic put it, 'The city is a complex organism, never entirely comfortable, always a place with its dark corners and suffering. But it is precisely that edge of danger and instability that makes the city such an extraordinarily powerful force … it is in its role as an engine for change that the city is most alive' (Sudjic, 1992, p. 32).

Building on theories that have explored possible ways of conceptualizing and organizing cities (e.g. Czarniawaska 2000; 2002), our stream will explore the following research questions:

  • The plurality of rationalities and languages that collide in a city (e.g. developer, planner, local government, architect, etc.): in how far is the city locus of the contested and the new that is born out of conflict?
  • The city as a designed and organized space: in how far do urbanism, design and architecture impact on organizing? And in how far are they organized in themselves?
  • Managing city – how are (local)governments and their techniques of managing cities dealing with growing population and problems? What new forms of participation and representation are emerging?
  • Power and politics in the city as a political arena: what are the dark sides of cities? How is the city a space of critical resistance? In how far is power productive in cities and gives raise to the new?
  • Creative economies as drivers of city development: in how do creative industries and cultural quarters redefine the way we think of organization and society?

We are looking for theoretically innovative and/or empirically interesting papers that are inspired (but not confined) by the research questions above. Importantly, we are seeking contributions from diverse fields of scholarships including organization studies, public management, sociology, human and social geography, urban planning and others. In doing so, we want to ensure a truly interdisciplinary discussion that will open up new avenues for research.

Key readings

Burdett, Richard (2006): Cities, Architecture and Society. 10th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice Biennale, see

Czarniawska, Barbara (2000): A City Reframed. Managing Warsaw in the 1990s. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Czarniawska, B. (2002): A Tale of Three Cities: Or the Glocalization of City Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marx, Karl & Friedrich Engels (1952): Manifesto of the Communist Party. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Park, Robert (1969): The City: Suggestions for the Investigation of Human behaviour in the Urban Environment. In: R. Sennet (ed.): Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities. New York: Appelton-Century-Crofts, pp. 91-130.

Perrow, Charles (1991): A Society of Organizations. Theory and Society, 20 (6): 725-762.

Simmel, G. (1969): The Metropolis and Mental Life. In: R. Sennet (ed.): Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities. New York: Appelton-Century-Crofts, pp. 47-60.

Spengler, Oswald (1969): The Soul of the City. In: R. Sennet (ed.): Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities. New York: Appelton-Century-Crofts, pp. 61-89.

Sudjic, Deyan (1992): The 100 Mile City. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

Wirth, Louis (1969): Urbanism as a Way of Life. In: R. Sennet (ed.): Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities. New York: Appelton-Century-Crofts, pp. 131-142.

About the convenors

  • Experienced team representing several different European countries, as well as Australia, and five different universities, including University of Technology, Sydney, Australia; Göteborg University, Sweden; Aston Business School, England; Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, Netherlands; University of St Andrews, Scotland, as well as a number of other centres of excellence.
  • The team is truly interdisciplinary: Stewart Clegg as an Organization Studies person whose work, especially on power, is internationally regarded; Barbara Czarniawska, outstanding theorist of cities, global transformations and Scandinavina institutionalism; Kees Boersma, whose work on the anchoring role of company organization, especially that of Phillips, on local action nets is informed by organization studies and business history, and Martin Kornberger, Organization Studies Board member and frequent collaborator with Clegg and others, recently on the book Space, Management and Organization Theory (2006), who is working in a Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building as well as a Faculty of Business.
  • Given the interdisciplinary auspices of the organizing team the stream will attract broad range of scholars both from within organization studies and elsewhere, facilitating cross-fertilization of ideas.
  • Convenor team has extensive experience in running EGOS streams (e.g. Bergen, 2006; Ljubljana, 2004; Copenhagen, 2003).
  • Past EGOS streams have resulted in edited volumes, e.g. Space, Management and Organization Theory (2005) and Neat Words, Networks and Identity (2006)..