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A critical review of conceptions of communication evident in contemporary business and management literature

Richard J. Varey (Director, Corporate Communications Unit, Associate Head of School, Graduate School of Management, University of Salford, Salford)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 1 April 2000



Management literature is critically examined, and this finds an outmoded conception of human communication that is convenient when power is the central concern, but dysfunctional when constructive decision making is needed. Communication is widely taken to be the transmission of information and the reproduction of intended meanings. This view is premised on ancient classical assumptions of causality and linearity — of absolute and classifying categories, instead of relative and relational categories. Such a basis introduces intentions and causality into our understanding of communication. This reductionist thinking is seen vividly in stimulus‐response models of human influence that do not adequately explain human interaction. The critique examines social constructionist thinking that sees the world as a complex set of interrelated social phenomena constructed by people in interaction, ie in joint social action. A wealth of constructive thinking is discovered in Nordic, Germanic and Eastern sociologies and social philosophies. This is an alternative to the Western psychological perspective that is dominant and misleading in management thinking. Circular (transactional), rather than linear, models are more helpful in understanding human communication and what is required for responsive and responsible management of communication for productive business enterprise. Causal assumptions can be discarded in taking a view of communication in and of corporations (ie ‘corporative communication’) as both stimulator and stabiliser. Social, political and cultural phenomena can be more richly understood, however, if their linguistic and discursive (interactive) nature is addressed with a constructionist perspective on social reality. Communication cannot be understood without reference to knowledge, understanding, information, meaning and sense. A social constructionist theory of communication is a widened framework for the analysis of communication in a complex and holistic fashion.



Varey, R.J. (2000), "A critical review of conceptions of communication evident in contemporary business and management literature", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 328-340.




Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

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