The Virus of Management: A Viral Perspective on Bureaucracy and Scientific Management

Peter Kjær, Christian Frankel

Research output: Working paperResearch

78 Downloads (Pure)


The virus metaphor may be used in studies of management knowledge not only as a way of describing diffusion processes but also as a way of thinking about viral elements of knowledge production. In the present article, organizational viruses are viewed as ensembles of basic distinctions that are constitutive of concrete bodies of knowledge and which form mutable engines of organizational self-descriptions. Organizational viruses, we contend, are both characterized by stability in terms of their basic productive configuration, while at the same time allowing for a high degree of variation in terms of concrete management knowledge and practice. The article is structured as follows. After the introduction, we first develop the notion of organizational virus as into an analytical approach. Second, we discern in the work of Frederick Taylor on scientific management and Max Weber on bureaucracy, two quite distinct viral configurations that we claim have infected most modern management knowledge – both on a discursive level and on the level of concrete organizational self-descriptions and practice. Third, we discuss our findings and raise the question of how viruses ‘work’, how they interact, and why they become infectious.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherInstitut for Organisation og Arbejdssociologi. Handelshøjskolen i København
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2003
SeriesWorking Paper / Institut for Organisation og Arbejdssociologi (IOA). Copenhagen Business School

Cite this