Organization theory is not a monogenetic scientific branch. If the brief exposé over the last century will do as a picture primarily of the development process in organizational practice, then the spectra of ideologies within the theoretical ways of interpreting organizations will do as the picture in which practice can be reflected. Some different attempts to present the theoretical framework have been made. One such attempt is that of Burell & Morgan (1992). They try to relate different theories to each other by sorting them into different paradigms. The suggested matrix has two dimensions, the subjectivist – objectivist on the one hand and the sociology of radical change – the sociology of regulation on the other. In the dimension of subjectivity and objectivity,
which is to reflect the nature of science, the following main ideas are represented.
The Dimension of Subjectivity – Objectivity
In this first part, a set of assumptions is made, based on the idea that organization theory is - on the one hand - a philosophy of science and - on the other hand - a theory of society. The first assumption is of an ontological nature, which concerns the very essence of the phenomena under investigation. The nominalist position revolves around the assumption that the social world external to individual cognition consists of names, concepts and labels, which are used to structure reality. For the realist, the social world exists independently of an individual’s appreciation of it.
The second assumption is of an epistemological nature and reflects assumptions about the grounds of knowledge, and of how one might begin to understand the world and communicate this to others, in the form of knowledge. The concept positivist is used to characterize epistemologies, which seek to explain and predict what happens in the social world by searching for regularities and causal relationships between its constituent elements. Positivist epistemology is based upon the traditional elements, which dominate the natural sciences. The anti-positivists epistemology is concerned with the social world as being essentially relativistic. The world can only be understood from the point of view of the individuals who are directly involved in the activities studied. From this point of view, the standpoint of the observer – which characterizes the positivist tradition – is rejected. The anti-positivists maintain the idea that the only way of gaining knowledge and really understanding different situations, is by occupying the frame of reference of the participant in action. The understanding has to be from the inside rather than from the outside.
The Subjectivist Approach to Social
The nature of assumption dealing
with the different approaches
The Objectivist Approach to Social
Nominalism Ontology Realism
Anti-positivism Epistemology Positivism
Voluntarism Human Nature Determinism
Ideographic Methodology Nomothetic Figure 9: The dimension of subjectivity – objectivity according to Burell & Morgan
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK - ORGANIZATION THEORY
The third assumption made, is associated with the two first, but is conceptually separated from them. It concerns human nature, in particular the relationship between human beings and their environment. At one extreme there is the voluntarist view, meaning that man is completely autonomous and free-willed. At the other extreme is a determinist view that regards man and his activities as being completely determined by the situation or environment in which he is located.
These three sets of assumptions have direct implications of a methodological nature, which has consequences for how to investigate and obtain knowledge about the social world. The number of methods that is possible to use within the field of social science, is far larger than what is regarded as science, by the traditional natural scientists. The ideographic approach emphasizes the analysis of the subjective accounts which one generates by getting inside situations and involving oneself in the everyday flow of life. The detailed analysis can be made from insights generated from the subjective interpretation of information gathered in, for instance, diaries, biographies and journalistic records. The ideographic method stresses the importance of letting one’s subject unfold its nature and characteristics during the process of investigation. The nomothetic approach to social science emphasizes the importance of basing research on systematic protocol and technique. It is, in the suggested interpretation, preoccupied with the construction of scientific tests and the use of quantitative techniques for the analysis of data. Surveys, questionnaires, personality tests and standardized research instruments of all kinds, are
prominent among the tools, which comprise nomothetic methodology. It is of importance to mention that the discussion on ideographic – nomothetic approaches do not take into consideration, the debate on
The Sociology of Regulation is concerned
The Sociology of Radical Change
is concerned with:
The status quo Radical change Social order Structural conflict Consensus or
Voluntary and spontaneous agreement of
Modes of domination
Social integration and cohesion
Solidarity Emancipation Need satisfaction
(focused on satisfaction of
individual or system needs)
Figure 10: The dimension of sociology of regulation and sociology of radical change,
according to Burell & Morgan
induction and deduction. Both the ideographic and the nomothetic approaches can be employed in a deductive and inductive sense and the debate on induction – deduction is deliberately not taken into consideration in the paradigmatic map drawn by Burell and Morgan.
The Dimension of Regulation – Radical Change
If the subjective – objective dimension is supposed to reflect the nature of science, then the dimension of regulation – radical change is supposed to reflect the nature of society.
The term sociology of regulation is introduced and used to refer to the writings of theorists who are primarily concerned with providing explanations of society in terms that emphasize its underlying unity and cohesiveness. It is essentially concerned with mans’ emancipation from the structures which limit and stunt his or her potential for development.
The sociology of radical change stands in contrast to the sociology of regulation, in that its basic concern is to find explanations for the radical change, deep-rooted structural conflict, modes of domination and structural contradiction, which its theorists see as characterizing modern society. It is often visionary and Utopian, in that it looks towards potentiality as much as actuality. It is concerned with what is possible, rather than with what is; with alternatives rather than with acceptance of the status quo. In an effort to make clear the characterization of the two dimensions, they are presented in figure 10.
4.2.3 Two Dimensions – Four Paradigms