Rosabeth Moss Kanter: A kaleidoscopic vision of change

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


At first glance, Rosabeth Moss Kanter's approach to change appears as eclectic, ranging from the study of utopian communities to corporations, non-profits, and governments to ecosystems. But look closer and there is a deeper coherence. Behind the witty turns of phrase, digestible frameworks, and punchy action lists lay theoretical subtlety and complexity. Kanter is a trained sociologist, who seeks to understand the structural determinants of individual behavior. She melds the sensibility of symbolic interactionism, and its emphasis on fieldwork, with attention to how structural relations, especially power, constitute social systems. Her mode and method are evident in her early work and, though later made less explicit, remain throughout. As such, she may be best understood, to borrow one of her phrases, as a kaleidoscopic thinker. She seeks to identify patterns and understand how people and elements relate, combine, and recombine in multiple ways and in multiple contexts to form new patterns. She then shares with leaders and citizens the emerging possibilities and suggests how to get there. Kanter thus does not study change for change's sake - she links it to a utopian search for perfectibility.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783319528786, 9783319528779
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2017


  • Collaboration
  • Commitment
  • Empowerment
  • Opportunity structure
  • Values


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