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Differences Between the Theories (3)

Different theories might...

  1. address different phenomena (e.g. environmental impact, internal efficiency, processes of change)
  2. address different aspects of the same phenomenon (social vs. technical aspects of the division of labour)
  3. provide competing explanations for certain phenomena (e.g. efficiency vs. myths of rationality)
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11.2 Incommensurability of Paradigms


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Burrell and Morgan's Four Paradigms

Two Dimensions:

  1. Methodical assumption: subjective vs. objective
  2. Knowledge Interest: change vs. regulation

⇒ Radical Humanist, Radical Structuralist, Interpretivist, Functionalist

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Theories in the Four Paradigms

  1. Weber's concept of Bureaucracy: Interpretivist (3)
  2. Taylorism: Functionalist (4)
  3. Human Relations Movement: Functionalist (4)
  4. Contingency Theory: Functionalist (4)
  5. Resource Dependence: Functionalist (4)
  6. Organizational Ecology Theory: Functionalist (4)
  7. New Institutionalism: Interpretivist (3)
  8. Critical Management Studies: Radical Humanist (1)
  9. Management and organizational cognition: Radical Humanist (1)
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"Incommensurability" of paradigms

  • Radical differentness
  • Competing positions
  • Lack of accepted system of reference for evaluating positions

→ According to the criteria defined by a particular paradigm, certain statements are true or false, but they are not true or false in general.

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Four Strategies for Dealing with Incommensurability

  • Isolationism
  • Back to Basics (dogmatic): functionalist
  • Anything Goes
  • Multiparadigm Perspectives (dialogue across paradigms)
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11.2 Application of Organization Theories in Research


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Selection of organization theories depends on (3)

  • object of research (what do you want to explain)
  • research interest (why do you want to explain it)
  • strategy for dealing with incommensurability)