Christof Brandtner

B.S., Vienna University of Economics and Business, 2012
M.A. Stanford University, 2015
Graduation Year
Christof Brandtner
Dissertation Title
Cities in Action: City Climate Action, Civil Society, and the Organization of Cities
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Chicago, Department of Sociology and Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology and a dissertation fellow at the Stanford Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS). I study how new ideas enter and alter organizations and cities. Theoretically, I am rooted in sociological institutionalism and economic sociology, which understand the practices of organizations as reciprocal with their external social and cultural environment. Methodologically, I combine quantitative analysis of original data with qualitative case studies and computational text analysis. My research investigates the expansion of rational organizing­—such as strategic planning or performance evaluation—in fields where community and democratic values loom large, such as local governance, environmental sustainability, and civil society. My work has implications for organizational theories of communities, a practice-based view of institutional change, and the consequences of rationalization, which Max Weber called the “disenchantment of the world.”

In my dissertation, I study cities' responses to climate change through an organizational lens. While social scientists and policy makers have pointed out that cities hold great promise in proactively addressing wicked problems, I find that most cities do not take action at all. I study why. I argue that civil society enables private and public organizations to act collectively—controlling for environmental, economic, and political factors. I find this in three studies, all of which are based on original datasets that I compiled from scratch, using a wide array of either secondary data or web-based research methods. I draw on a long tradition of urban and organizational sociology but span disciplines by studying the interactions of organizations and agencies from all sectors. This research is supported by the National Science Foundation.

As a fellow at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, I am a collaborator of the Civic Life of Cities project, a comparative study of the changing nonprofit sector across five cities worldwide, and the Stanford Project on the Evolution of Nonprofits (SPEN). My work has appeared in Sociological Theory, the Socio-Economic Review, Organization Studies, Urban Studies, Voluntas, Research in Organizational Behavior, and Research in the Sociology of Organizations. I also procrastibake and like birds.