Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

PhD course on Foucault at the Copenhagen Business School


PhD Course in Copenhagen 27th – 30th June, 2022
Foucault: organization, technology, and subject-formation

Marius Gudmand-Høyer, Associate Professor, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.

Sverre Raffnsøe, Professor, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.

Ute Tellman, Professor, Department of Sociology, Darmstadt University.

Kaspar Villadsen, Professor (mso), Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.
Course coordinator
Kaspar Villadsen, Professor (mso) and Marius Gudmand-Høyer, Associate Professor. Both from Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, CBS.


Only PhD students can participate in the course.

Participation requires submission of a short paper (see more below). Papers must be in English. Deadline is 13 June 2022. We welcome PhD students who work with Foucault as well as PhD students who would like to integrate Foucauldian ideas.

It is a precondition for receiving the course diploma that the PhD student attends the whole course.

The course will provide the participants with:

a) An introduction to key analytical potentials reconstructed from Foucault’s authorship as well as the lecturers’ own research projects.

b) We will discuss different approaches to themes of organization, technology, and subject-formation, as they are deployed in state-of-the-art Foucault-inspired scholarship.

c) The particular way Foucauldian analytics can be applied in the participant’s research will be explored. Hence, both potentials and limitations will be discussed in relation to the participants’ current research.

Course content
Michel Foucault’s work continues to offer a major source of inspiration for PhD projects across a wide range of disciplinary domains. This PhD course explores how Foucault’s work speaks to three broad themes in contemporary business school research and beyond: Organization, technology, and subject-formation. A key aim of the course is to provide an overview of analytical possibilities in Foucault’s work, effective for deploying such analytics in their own research.

Overall, Foucault’s thinking can help to inquire into the organizations, technologies and self-techniques that condition our contemporary experiences. First, Foucault’s genealogical approach (1977, 1984) works by tracing how contemporary forms of organization emerged from past struggles, political strategies, and accidental events. From this perspective, the prevailing modes of organizing can be better grasped by recovering their historical conditions of emergence. Struggles around definitions and uses of appropriate management, leadership, accountability, transparency or sustainability make up pertinent material for genealogical inquiry.

Foucault developed his own notion of technology during the 1970s, namely the concept of “the dispositive”. A dispositive is defined as a historical configuration, which connects discursive and non-discursive elements such as laws, practices, material artifacts, procedures, and techniques (Foucault, 1980). It designates a propensity in knowledge production and social practice as well as a “dispositionality” in how institutions emerge and transform. The concept has recently been introduced into Foucauldian scholarship, and it opens for analyzing how our practices – for example, risk assessments or anti-pandemic strategies – are conditioned by dispositives that have been formed in historical processes often spanning several centuries.

Finally, Foucault’s late authorship in the early 1980s, often termed his “ethical turn”, took him back to techniques of self-formation in Early Christianity and Greco-Roman antiquity. There, Foucault noticed a “technical” notion of ethics less defined by submission to universal moral codes and instead focused more on the self’s work upon the self. Perhaps, the urgent issues of our time call for developing another form of ethics rather than models rooted in legal frameworks and Christian morality. The recent emergence of responsible consumers, ‘life-long learners’, climate conscious youths, “freeganism”, and fluid gender identity could be analyzed with inspiration from Foucault’s work on ethics and self-formation.

The theme of this PhD course requires that the participants engage in some way with Foucault’s historical work, his analytical frameworks, or his approach to organization, technology, and subjectivity. Papers that are not exclusively Foucauldian but also derive from other thinkers and traditions are welcome too.

Teaching style
The goal is to sharpen the participants’ knowledge of Foucault’s analytical toolbox and how it can be applied in PhD projects. To that end we dedicate sufficient time to carefully examine and discuss the submitted papers. The aim of the lectures is, first, to clarify the ways in which Foucault worked with his analytics and, second, to demonstrate how to put the analytics to work in specific analysis. The aim of the workshops is to explore how Foucauldian analytics function in each participant’s paper – with the aim of strengthening, deepening and nuancing the participants’ research. In the workshops, participants are divided into smaller groups that will be supervised by one of lecturers.

All participants are required to submit a paper that deals with the key theme(s) of the PhD project in question (maximum 10 pages).

Papers (and 300 word abstracts) must be in English.

Lecture plan
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4



Organizations and organizing from the perspective of dispositional analysis (SR)


Technologies from the perspective of the Foucault’s notion of subjectivation (KV)


Contemporary self-formation from the perspective of problematization analysis (MGH)


Studying the economy from a Foucauldian perspective (UT)


10.45-12.00 Workshops on participants’ papers and PhD projects Workshops on papers and projects Workshop on papers and projects Workshop on papers and projects
12.00-13.00 Lunc Lunch Lunch Lunch
13.00-14.00 Short lecture: [An exemplary study, MGH] Short lecture: [An exemplary study, SR] Short lecture: [An exemplary study, KV] Short lecture: [An exemplary study, UT]


Workshops on papers and projects Workshops on papers and projects Workshops on papers and projects Roundtable: SR, KV, MGH, UT
15.30-16.30 Generic insights from lectures and workshops (SR, KV, MGH) Generic insights from lectures and workshops (SR, KV, MGH) Generic insights from lectures and workshops (SR, KV, MGH) Evaluation and final discussion

During the workshops, the participants will be divided into smaller groups each supervised by one of the lecturers.

Learning objectives
  • Achieve a strong reflexivity regarding how the choice of analytics from Foucault’s authorship brings certain questions, problems, entities and processes into the foreground of analysis and critical consideration.
  • Awareness of different ways of working with Foucauldian analytics in PhD dissertations, articles and academic writing in general. This awareness will particular concern and be exemplified by the themes of organization, technology, and subjectivity. However, these themes are not exclusive.
  • Increase participant’s critical ability to account for the potential role of Foucauldian analytics, in general, and how it is applied in the participant’s research, specifically. This reflexivity concerns, inter alia, the epistemological distinctiveness of Foucauldian analytics, the social ontology it assumes, the analytical practices involved, and the critical effects of such scholarship.

Start date

End date




Course Literature
Course readings (specified for sessions):

Day one, first lecture:

Raffnsøe S, Mennicken A, Miller P. (2019) The Foucault Effect in Organization Studies. Organization Studies. 40(2): 155-182.

Raffnsøe, S., Gudmand-Høyer, M., Thaning, M.S. (2016a) Foucault’s dispositive: The perspicacity of dispositive analytics in organizational research. Organization, (23): 272–298.

Villadsen, K. (2021) ‘The dispositive’: Foucault’s concept for organizational analysis? Organization Studies 42(3): 473-494.

Day one, second, short lecture:

Hansen HK, Weiskopf R. (2021) From Universalizing Transparency to the Interplay of Transparency Matrices: Critical insights from the emerging social credit system in China. Organization Studies. 42(1): 109-128.

Day two; first lecture:

Villadsen, K. (2022) Foucault’s Concept of Technology. In Villadsen: Foucault’s Technologies. Oxford UP (forthcoming).

Foucault, M. (1980) The Confession of the Flesh. In Power/Knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977, edited by Colin Gordon, pp. 194-240. New York: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. (1982) The Subject and Power. Critical Inquiry, 8(4): 777-795.

Day two; second, short lecture:

Karlsen, M.P. & Villadsen, K. (2008) Who should do the talking? The proliferation of dialogue as governmental technology. Culture and Organization, 14(4): 345-363.

Day three; first lecture:

Barnett, Clive, and Gary Bridge (2016). “The situations of urban inquiry: Thinking problematically about the city.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 40(6): 1186-1204.

Foucault, Michel ([1984]/1985). “Introduction.” In: The Use of Pleasures. Volume 2 of The History of Sexuality. New York: Vintage Books; pp. 3-13.

Foucault, Michel [1981]: “Interview with André Berten, May 7, 1981”, in: Michel Foucault: Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling:  The Function of Avowal in Justice. Chicago/Louvain: The University of Chicago Press/UCL, 2014: 235-246.

Day three, short lecture:

Foucault, Michel [1983]. “Problematics.” (Conversation with Thomas Zummer, November 1983.) In: S. Lotringer (ed.): Foucault Live: Interviews, 1961-1984. New York: Semiotext(e); pp. 416-422.

du Plessis, Erik Mygind (2021). “How to perpetuate problems of the self: applying Foucault’s concept of problematization to popular self-help books on work and career.” Culture and Organization, 27(1): 33-50.

Day four; first lecture:

Tellmann, U. (2009) “Foucault and the invisible economy,” Foucault Studies, 5-24.

Opitz, S. and U Tellmann, U. (2015) Future emergencies: Temporal politics in law and economy. Theory, Culture & Society, 32(2): 107-129.

Tellmann, U. (2013) Catastrophic populations and the fear of the future: Malthus and the genealogy of liberal economy. Theory, Culture & Society, 30(2): 135-155.

Day four, short lecture:

Tellmann, U. (2003) The truth of the market. Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 4(2): 49-63.

DKK 5.200,- (includes course fee, coffee/tea, lunch and one dinner)

Copenhagen Business School

Porcelænshaven 16B
DK-2000 Frederiksberg
Room: PH16B_118 (first floor)

Contact information
Administration of the course:

PhD Support

Nina Iversen

Course content:
Professor MSO Kaspar Villadsen


Registration deadline

Please note that your registration is binding after the registration deadline.

In case we receive more registrations for the course than we have places, the registrations will be prioritized in the following order: Students from CBS departments, students from other institutions than CBS.

Register here




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