In this introduction to the special issue on paradigm thinking in organisation studies we argue that by continuing to cultivate paradigm-based ideas we can make new and valuable contributions to debates on theoretical development and knowledge production in the field. We begin by returning to some central issues in the original «paradigm wars» debate and outlining the state of the art in this respect. Then, briefly, we speculate on some broader contemporary areas in which paradigm-thinking is likely to yield significant benefits for scholars in terms of research inquiry and critical reflection. We conclude with a discussion of the papers included in the issue – papers that provide powerful insights into the relevance of paradigm thinking for modern organisation studies, and notably with respect to a range of intellectual challenges emerging within the field.
In knowledge disputes about the paradigmatic status of management and organisation studies, many commentators have debated whether or not interpretations of Thomas Kuhn’s work have been accurate, and have deplored the lack of a common and shared use of notions like «paradigm» and «incommensurability». By looking at the role of ambiguity and polysemy in knowledge disputes, the position developed here is one that recognises that the meaning of concepts is an important site of contestation. Ambiguity and polysemy are not merely obstacles to the resolution of controversies; they are rhetorical resources mobilised in the construction of positions and arguments. Thus, for very good reasons, attempts to generate shared meaning of concepts are likely to encounter important difficulties. This is illustrated by a rhetorical reading of two texts from the «paradigm debate».
This contribution proposes a reflexive account of doing bi-paradigm research using the strategy of interplay. With a qualitative study on Turkish mobile professionals’ experiences of integration in Hungary and in Sweden, we scrutinize how we have conducted our research as well as the constraints and support that lead to the interplay. We illustrate how interplay is one in practice; thus, we de-mystify this multi-paradigm strategy by showing how it is inscribed in researchers’ circumstances. We start by positioning interplay within multi-paradigm studies and then briefly present the empirical study. This follows reflexive textual practices inspired by several research paradigms that convey the acute reflexivity in which researchers engage when doing interplay. These accounts simultaneously reveal how the interplay strategy, as a knowledge production process, is inscribed in the person, the practices, and the community of researchers doing interplay.
This paper restates the case for the incommensurability of knowledge paradigms with particular reference to Burrell and Morgan. Moving from an ordinary language to a more scientific usage, the lack of rigour in the use of the concept is noted, as is the conflation of incommensurable paradigm models. By examining the concept of the «fact», the unit of epistemology, Organisation Theory is understood as being imprecisely located along a continuum of discourse from ordinary language to that of natural science. Arguing for the inevitably political nature of OT, the paper looks at the implications of competing claims amongst those empowered to speak. Attention is drawn to the paradox that in Burrell and Morgan’s model each paradigm has greater explanatory power than the other three.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn introduced the notion of «paradigms» to explain how science actually progresses by replacing one paradigm of comprehension with another. Kuhn’s notion of paradigms and the related issues of incommensurability were taken up by organization theorists Gibson Burrell and Gareth Morgan and used to develop a two-by-two paradigmatic framework in their seminal volume Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis. Their timely theoretical intervention led to the proliferation of competing theories of organization and this resulted in what became known as «paradigm wars» in Organization Studies. But what appears to have been overlooked in the paradigm debates is the more intractable problem of representation. Theories propounded rely on abstract representations that are regularly mistaken for reality itself. As a result, genuine progress in understanding the phenomenon of organization is stymied. In this paper we argue for the need to go before and beyond paradigms. This entails returning to the «rough ground» of raw lived experience as the starting point of our enquiry; that «zero degree» of organization which enables us to refashion our comprehension of the world of human affairs.
This paper argues that paradigmatic thinking in organization studies has failed to treat personhood as a central problematic within the research enterprise and that this oversight underlies a number of seemingly intractable field-level problems. We emphasise the centrality of personhood to the development and exercise of knowledge via three distinct but complementary projects: Ian Hunter’s investigation into «the moment of theory», Pierre Hadot’s exposition of «philosophy as a way of life», and Bas Van Fraassen’s reconceptualization of philosophical positions as «stances». The notion of «stance» provides a means for assimilating and differentiating otherwise distinct paradigms and thereby circumvents debates about paradigm incommensurability or the theory-practice dualism. Rather, the shift from «paradigms» to «stances» enables us to re-classify the field of organizational analysis according to new values-based criteria such that practical relevance and ethical seriousness can be restored.
The paper argues that the concept of paradigm remains useful in the current context of generating academic research that increasingly demands accountability from scholars about how their research can impact meaningfully on the wider society. This so called «impact agenda» has seen collaborative/co-produced research assume importance and becoming more accepted in management studies. Drawing on John Dewey’s notion of democratic experimentalism», we question the fundamentals of collaborative research/knowledge co-production in management studies. We argue that the paradigm concept is useful in alerting us to the worldviews of the researchers and practitioners engaged in collaborative research, seen here as a form of lived experience.
In this essay, we draw the attention of scholars contributing to the broad field of organisation studies, especially that part of it that constitutes the sociology of organisations, to a problem regarding the maintenance of social order in practical intellectual life as a university employee. We direct our readers’ attention to the performance-related practices governing Business and Management scholars that are currently contributing to the most acute expression of this problem because they elaborate powerful individuating forces that undermine the existing social order, without putting forward any normative or positive commitment to what a different social order might be that would or should replace what was previously there. Our core concern is that this destructive tendency undermines the sociology of organisation as a legitimate form of social inquiry and ultimately undermines the capacity of organisational scholars to understand and improve social affairs.
In this short paper I consider what sense a 1979 book makes from the viewpoint of 2019. In thinking about how I read it then, and how I read it now, I ask whether we can add time to the two dimensional paradigm grid, in order to think about it as a «map» that might take us from now to a different sort of future. Or, to put it another way, where do we place utopia in the two by two matrix?
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