From modern to postmodern organizational analysis

Chia, R. (1995) From modern to postmodern organizational analysis. Organization Studies, 16(4), pp. 579-604. (doi:10.1177/017084069501600406)

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The terms 'modem' and 'postmodern' have become common currency in intel lectual debates within organization studies. The postmodern is variously inter preted as an 'epoch', a 'perspective', or a new 'paradigm' of thought. In this paper the author argues that what distinguishes the postmodern from the modem is a 'style of thinking' which eschews the uncritical use of common organizational terms such as 'organizations', 'individuals', 'environment', 'structure', and 'culture', etc. These terms refer to the existence of social entit ies and attributes within a modernist problematic. This is because a modernist thought style relies on a 'strong' ontology (the study of the nature and essence of things) of being which privileges thinking in terms of discrete phenomenal 'states', static 'attributes' and sequential 'events'. Postmodern thinking, on the other hand, privileges a 'weak' ontology of becoming which emphasizes a transient, ephemeral and emergent reality. From this thought style, reality is deemed to be continuously in flux and transformation and hence unrepresent able in any static sense. Debates about modernism and postmodernism which do not address this ontological distinction miss critical insights which postmod ernism brings to the study of organization. Adopting a postmodern mode of thinking implies radical consequences for rethinking organization studies. Instead of the traditional emphasis on organizations, organizational forms and organizational attributes, what is accentuated is the importance of examining local assemblages of 'organizings' which collectively make up social reality. A postmodern style of thought, therefore, brings with it a different set of onto logical commitments, intellectual priorities and theoretical preoccupations to bear on the study of organization.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Chia, Professor Robert
Authors: Chia, R.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Organization Studies
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN (Online):1741-3044

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