Table of contents(12 chapters)
Over the past decades, scholars advanced foundational insights about paradox in organization theory. In this double volume, we seek to expand upon these insights through interdisciplinary theorizing. We do so for two reasons. First, we think that now is a moment to build on those foundations toward richer, more complex insights by learning from disciplines outside of organization theory. Second, as our world increasingly faces grand challenges, scholars turn to paradox theory. Yet as the challenges become more complex, authors turn to other disciplines to ensure the requisite complexity of our own theories. To advance these goals, we invited scholars with knowledge in paradox theory to explore how these ideas could be expanded by outside disciplines. This provides a both/and opportunity for paradox theory: both learning from outside disciplines beyond existing boundaries and enriching our insights in organization scholarship. The result is an impressive collection of papers about paradox theory that draws from four outside realms – the realm of belief, the realm of physical systems, the realm of social structures, and the realm of expression. In this introduction, we expand on why paradox theory is ripe for interdisciplinary theorizing, explore the benefits of doing so, and introduce the papers in this double volume.
A1. Realm of Beliefs
That life is inundated with constant push–pull between contradictory demands is indisputable. Different traditions and worldviews inform individuals’ approaches to dealing with the ensuing paradoxes. However, the literature has focused on Western and Eastern philosophies and traditions, while disregarding others such as the Afrocentric. In this chapter, the authors explore Ubuntu, an Afrocentric tradition, as an alternative philosophical underpinning that can inform the nature of paradoxes. Doing so enriches the understanding, problematizing and managing of paradoxes. Central to Ubuntu is otherness: the emphasis on the need of the other that implies focusing on the other; in doing so, the polarities of diverse needs are accommodated, striving for an ultimate goal of harmony. Moreover, the authors elaborate on the hybrid space where collapsing the East–West and the West and non-west dualism allow engagement with a multiplicity of worldviews. In so doing, the authors expand paradox theorizing beyond the orthodoxy of East and West antinomies and challenge the basic assumption in paradox management by asking the question: what if we start from others’ demands?
The author argues and explains that the indigenous Eastern epistemological frame of yin-yang balancing can be taken as a unique system of thinking toward a meta-perspective. It is not only deeply rooted in the indigenous Eastern culture traditions, but also bears salient global implications, especially in the domain of paradox management. The purpose and contribution of this chapter are twofold: (1) to explain the unique and salient features of yin-yang balancing (the “either/and” system to reframe paradox into duality as partially conflicting and partially complementary, both spatially and temporarily) as compared with the Western logic systems (the “either/or” and “both/or” or “both/and” systems); and (2) to explore the global implications of the “either/and” system for future paradox research, including the three unique themes of overlap between opposites with the “seed” of one opposite inside the other; threshold from the contingent balance between partial separation and partial integration in line with specific contexts through three operating mechanisms, and knot for the special role of third-party to shift paradox from a dyadic level to a triadic and even a multiplex level.
A surface view of monotheistic or “Western” religions might lead some to infer a singularity to truth that is inconsistent with paradoxical thinking. The author explores a key Biblical narrative common to both Judaism and Christianity – the story of origins that unfolds in the Garden of Eden. The author posits that the foundations of those belief systems, and particularly those of Christian theology, are paradoxical as evidenced in their historic texts (i.e., the Old and New Testaments of the Bible). A foundational paradox of an “ought versus is” (ideal vs. actual) tension that underlies or intertwines in knot-like fashion with other paradoxes is identified in ways that account for a current world view marked by temporality (in tension with eternality) and becoming (in tension with being). These tensions are made salient as humans continually work toward ideals that seem always just out of reach. Paradox conceptualization is also expanded to propose the notion of mutual embeddedness rather than mutual exclusivity of opposites. Implications for organizational paradoxes are explicated, along with directions for future research based on novel insights provided by the juxtaposition of religion and paradox.
This chapter engages with both religion and paradox in leadership and organization research by focusing on three sources of paradoxical tensions and how they are shaped by religion: worldly limits, diverse interpretations, and emerging relationships. First, regarding worldly limits, religion is predicated on an additional “very macro” level of reality, transcendence. This belief offers a distinct way of engaging with paradoxes as it extends the worldly realm’s boundaries. Second, contradictory interpretations of religions may rise, even among members of the same faith, leading to new cognitive paradoxes. Dynamizing boundaries between contradictory elements may allow organizations to maintain unity in a diversity of interpretations. Third, concerning emerging relationships, religions are global phenomena that are experienced side by side in multiple societal terrains. They cut across diverse social systems and give rise to novel relationships. This creates new tensions and paradoxical encounters, as religions traverse borders and boundaries and encounter existing social beliefs, structures, and practices. The expansion, dynamization, and shifting of boundaries then shapes persistent contradictions among interdependent elements. Our field should appreciate and embrace conflicting mysteries and paradoxes across boundaries. We may only need some faith.
In this commentary, the authors introduce certain paradoxes of religious experience, ways the sacred is both attractive and repulsive, how there are urges to merge with the divine and to meaningfully change the world, how sacred power is both ineffable and accessible, how the divine can best be understood as a coincidence of opposites, how there is both good and evil in the world, and how religions sometimes proclaim peace yet instigate wars. The authors link these paradoxes with the contributions of the chapters in this volume on religion and philosophy. On the basis of both our and the chapters’ contributions the authors demonstrate several domains where religious paradox adds important insights to organizational approaches to paradox.
A2. Realm of Physical Systems
Organizational paradoxes must first be recognized by managers before they can respond to them. Yet scholars have adopted different perspectives on how paradoxical tensions become salient and engender management responses. Some approaches have focused on the socially constituted nature of paradoxes, and others on the inherent aspects of paradoxes in the environment. The authors propose an approach that gives ontological meaning to both the socially constituted and inherent nature of organizational paradoxes. Our approach, which is inspired by quantum physics, opens up new opportunities for engaging with the socio-materiality of paradoxes, how they are measured, and the implications this has on the probabilities of managing organizational responses to paradox.
At the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit, the Club of Rome in collaboration with a network of global contributors issued a statement calling for nations to declare a planetary emergency. The statement calls for urgent action to prevent a global crisis due to the impact of human activity on the stability of the Earth’s life-support systems. Implications of the planetary emergency pose intriguing challenges for how managers address paradoxical sustainability challenges across spatial and temporal scales. In this chapter, the authors have two aims. First, the authors show that the planetary emergency is inherently paradoxical. To do this, the authors build an embedded view of the planetary emergency and argue that it is paradoxical due to key dynamics that emerge across organizational, economic, social, and environmental systems over time. Second, the authors advance paradox theory by exploring the paradoxical nature of the planetary emergency and propose a three-sequence framework for collective action including: (1) building a view of the planetary emergency across spatial and temporal scales, (2) collectively making sense of the planetary emergency, and (3) levering a paradoxical view of the planetary emergency to ensure effective action.
The exponential growth of digital technologies and their increased importance in both organizational and everyday life poses new challenges to paradox research within management studies. Management scholars taking a paradoxical lens have predominantly focused on social paradoxes within the confines of the organization. Technological change has often been treated as an exogenous force bringing previously latent tensions to the fore. Such newly salient paradoxes are viewed as instigating managerial sensemaking and exploration of strategic responses that will re-establish equilibrium. Our investigation of how digital innovations disrupted London taxiwork and global music distribution shows something different. The paradoxical tensions raised by emerging digital technologies inevitably play out at industry and societal levels. Concomitant changes in boundaries, categories, and potentials for action that shape and channel ongoing industry transformation call for organizational responses and adaptation. Critically, such tensions must be interpreted within the context of industry arrangements absent a centrally controlling actor. Rather than episodes of exogenous change, the nature of the digital, along with interactions across multiple sources of agency, continually surface complex dynamic and systemic tensions within and across industries. Our findings highlight the importance of explicitly accounting for the inter-relatedness and mutual dependence of the social and technical elements of change. As digital innovation expands and starts to impact all aspects of human experience it is critical for management scholars to reflect how the paradoxical perspective can be expanded to better understand these contemporary large-scale changes.
Based on a review of selected chapters in this volume, this commentary examines how latent and salient contradictions unfold over time, and how perceptions and relative power of the parties involved may produce paradoxical and non-paradoxical outcomes. The empirical chapters also call attention to the need to expand the agenda of paradox scholarship to address the greater paradoxical complexities observed in organizational life.
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- Book series
- Research in the Sociology of Organizations
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- Emerald Publishing Limited
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