1 Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
The purpose of this paper is to examine ways to situate management within philosophy, that is, ways to analyze the philosophical assumptions in management history, theory and practice. Since Burrell and Morgan suggested the idea that “all theories of organization are based upon philosophy of science“ (Burrell & Morgan, 1979:1), philosophical reflections in terms of a series of “isms” informed by different schools or paradigms (such as positivism, structuralism, phenomenology, critical theory, and so on and so forth) have been a central part of management studies. Thus, today, it has become common sense to categorize different approaches to management according to their assumptions of ontology, epistemology and methodology. My paper will argue first (1) that, although sometimes very abstract and obtuse writing that seems to owe more to competition among academics than to illumination for those engaging with organizations, the philosophical “isms” are very informative in management studies. But (2) I will argue that these “isms” should not be the primary lens through which philosophy in organizations is approached, at least not in the sense of championing a particular theoretical paradigm. Partly because this would limit access this field to be open only to those who have engaged in sufficient social theory to be able to locate themselves in one particular paradigm or another before theoretical reflection and practice may begin, and partly because this has, to date, only led to an impasse in the theoretical debate. Rather (3), philosophy is more fruitful as an analysis of reasons, that is, as a way of relating ideas and images of management to systems of thought (theory) in ways which do no reduce to stating truths about them, but rather regards them as fully temporal, relating them equally to present, past and future.