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Article
Publication date: 16 February 2022

Alexander Styhre

The purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of agency on basis of a pragmatist philosophy framework of analysis. Agency is a key analytical concept in management…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of agency on basis of a pragmatist philosophy framework of analysis. Agency is a key analytical concept in management studies, debated in terms of its theoretical elements and its degree of empirical substantiation. Agency is commonly either assumed to be the case, understood as some generic human capacity to act with integrity, or, alternatively, agency is considered to be derived from social structures, say professional norms or occupational identities acquired through socialization. In contrast, in an attempt to escape the agency/structure model, agency may be considered as what is generated in and through meso-level interactions, constituted as recurrent practices wherein accomplishments in the past serve as the template for new activities that further reinforce agential capacities.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on the work of pragmatist philosopher Donald Davidson and what he calls the principle of charity, this paper presents an analytical model wherein agency is generated on basis of a shared everyday language wherein beliefs and preferences are constituted and thereafter serve as the basis of agential action.

Findings

Davidson’s externalist theory of action is supportive of the theory and study of meso-level interactions and helps to overcome the question whether agency is exogenously given or the effect of social structure.

Originality/value

This paper reviews recent social science literature on agency and introduces pragmatist philosophy concepts to better examine under what conditions social actors can reasonably have faith in an interaction being premised on beliefs that are held on basis of rational and reasonable grounds. This adds to an integrated theory of agency, being of importance for social theory and organizational analysis more specifically.

Details

International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1934-8835

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 18 March 2020

Alexander Styhre

The purpose of this paper is to question whether the management studies is rigorous and/or relevant is a recurrent debate in the discipline. There is reason to believe…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to question whether the management studies is rigorous and/or relevant is a recurrent debate in the discipline. There is reason to believe that this dichotomy is simplistic as relevance is a consequence of rigor (defined in a variety of ways in the literature), whereas the epistemic value of rigor must per se be examined in more detail.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on the study of the analytical philosophy of Donald Davidson, rigor is here conceptualized as the capacity to examine how intersubjective meaning is constituted on the basis of the semantics of the everyday language.

Findings

In Davidson’s pragmatist view, individual beliefs are established through communication, and beliefs generate preferences and “pro-attitudes” that result in social action. Using Ian Hacking’s term undoing as a critique of a proposition or idea as being no contender for truth (or some other quality) at all, the paper questions the proposition that scientific rigor can be operationalized as the use of data collection and analysis methods developed in other and more authoritative disciplines, e.g. economics. On the contrary, to make accurate descriptions of beliefs, preferences and actions on the basis of the use of everyday language is the mark of scientific rigor in management studies.

Originality/value

The paper addresses the question of how rigorous research in management studies is essentially a matter of explanation, and that explanation, in turn, demands a more elaborate theory of action. The paper also introduces the work of Donald Davidson as an important figure when theorizing action.

Details

International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. 29 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1934-8835

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 9 July 2018

Alexander Styhre

Corporate governance is the practice of balancing various stakeholder interests within the legal device of the chartered business. Recent changes in the competitive…

Abstract

Purpose

Corporate governance is the practice of balancing various stakeholder interests within the legal device of the chartered business. Recent changes in the competitive capitalism including the Great Recession, now entering its second decade, have called for reforms within the defined corporate system. To sketch a wider picture of corporate governance issues and the debate over time, this paper aims to identify two philosophical traditions, a British and liberal tradition and a continental statist tradition, which have bearings for how the legal device of the corporation is understood.

Design/methodology/approach

This conceptual paper combines legal philosophy and legal studies, management studies, economics and economic sociology literatures.

Findings

In the former tradition, the firm and its ownership are exclusively associated with irreducibly individual rights. In the latter tradition, property rights remain the core of legal systems, but rather than being an end in itself (as in the liberal tradition), such property rights are merely the starting point for the individual’s wider engagement in social and public affairs. These two traditions enact the firm differently and emphasize specific benefits. In the former tradition, associated with a shareholder primacy model, individual rent-seeking is foregrounded; in the latter tradition, associated with legal and management scholarship, the team production qualities of the firm are emphasized.

Originality/value

This conceptual paper offers an analysis of the roots of differences between Anglo-American and continental corporate governance traditions, a scholarly study that is of great theoretical and practical relevance in the era of the Great Depression.

Details

International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. 26 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1934-8835

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 7 November 2016

Alexander Styhre

The purpose of this paper is to critically assess the assumptions regarding human behaviour in orthodox neoclassical economic theory. The orthodox neoclassical economic…

1394

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to critically assess the assumptions regarding human behaviour in orthodox neoclassical economic theory. The orthodox neoclassical economic theory prescribes rational models of human behaviour, but the strictness of the criteria, developed to promote theoretical consistency and conceptual elegance, commonly fails to fully accommodate all of the empirical material. To save the core of the orthodox neoclassical economic theory research program and to neutralize and mute criticism regarding its predictive failures, its proponents engage in expedient theorizing, the expansion of the initial theoretical framework by adding ad hoc hypotheses and/or including additional explanatory factors; in many cases, dismissed as “unnecessary complications” (as in the case of morality and ethics – two conspicuously “non-economic” concepts) in the initial formulation of theoretical propositions of the core theories.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reviews a body of heterogeneous literature to introduce and examine the use of expedient theorizing in economic thinking.

Findings

In the present case, the hyperrationalist axiom regarding the efficacy of calculative practices to maximize individual utility is accompanied by moralist concerns (and, by implication, corrective and disciplinary action) regarding the failure to adhere to such prescriptions. Expedient theorizing, thus, becomes a key mechanism in the political economy of truth that currently grants orthodox neoclassical economic theory significant authority to inform policy-making in substantial ways and considerable prestige.

Originality/value

The orthodox neoclassical economic theory constitutes the blueprint for policy-making and institutional change, and, therefore, the key economic ideas being the constitutive elements of the contemporary economy demand scholarly attention. The paper thus points at theoretical inconsistencies in the orthodox neoclassical economic theory and introduces the concept of expedient theorizing as its remedy.

Details

International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. 24 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1934-8835

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 6 December 2018

Alexander Styhre

Organization theory and management studies rely on a representational idiom to account faithfully for empirical data, but such research ideals do not always apprehend what…

Abstract

Purpose

Organization theory and management studies rely on a representational idiom to account faithfully for empirical data, but such research ideals do not always apprehend what is essential in the case at hand. Comedy and the comical remain an underutilized resource within, e.g. the critique of power imbalances and imprudent or illicit behavior in corporations, providing an entirely different set of mechanisms that do not sketch the “broad picture” but target elementary and constitutive empirical data. The purpose of this paper is to explore the possibilities for using such resources in management studies writing.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses the literature addressing the Enron bankruptcy as an exemplary case wherein an analytical framework recognizing a comic outlook of life can be fruitfully applied. Additional cases are presented to substantiate the proposed model.

Findings

The paper advocates a broader repertoire of analytical practices in organization studies, including techniques and modes of representation used in comedy.

Originality/value

The paper proposes a minor literature within management studies, drawing on a performative idiom and the use of comedy techniques, including the debasing of social situations, to extend the repertoire of styles. In the end, such a minor literature may be able to grapple with the current situation, characterized by organizational absurdities that preclude the use of a representational idiom.

Details

International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1934-8835

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 3 November 2022

Alexander Styhre, Jonas Fasth and Martin Löwstedt

Drawing on the literature on pastoral power, a term introduced by Foucault that denotes a specific form of authority based on the subordinate's open communication…

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on the literature on pastoral power, a term introduced by Foucault that denotes a specific form of authority based on the subordinate's open communication regarding aspirations, interests and personal concerns, having the full faith in the leader's care of the subordinate's welfare, this article report empirical material from a study of Swedish construction industry.

Design/methodology/approach

Leadership practices are contingent on context and situation, and over time, authoritative leadership practices have been complemented by relational leadership that increasingly emphasizes the bilateral communication between manager and subordinate. The more communicative and “soft” leadership idiom may have both benefits and incur unanticipated consequences and conditions that need to be studied on basis of empirical materials.

Findings

Managers in the construction industry emphasize how subordinates increasingly turn to their closest managers to address a variety of concerns. Even though managers recognizes the value of providing personalized support, there is a risk that such a leadership idiom distract both managers and subordinates, i.e. counseling activities consume too much resources, making agents less prone to fully attend to proper project goals.

Originality/value

To consider contemporary leadership practices as partially premised on pastoral power provides new analytical possibilities that shed light on how leadership practice needs to correspond with new demands in the corporate setting.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

Keywords

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 16 February 2021

Alexander Styhre and Sara Brorström

Drawing on the literature on professional ignorance, here defined in affirmative terms as the capacity to act regardless of the incompleteness of available information in…

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on the literature on professional ignorance, here defined in affirmative terms as the capacity to act regardless of the incompleteness of available information in organizations and professional communities, the article reports empirical material from an urban development project wherein policy makers' instructions are vague and, in certain domains, inconsistent with market conditions.

Design/methodology/approach

Urban development projects regularly include uncertainty and risk taking, and policy makers' stated objectives regarding project goals may be incomplete or merely signal a political ambition. In such situations, first-line project participants need to make decisions as if uncertainties regarding policy objectives are manageable and preferably minimal. The purpose of the article is to substantiate the proposition that professional ignorance is a key mechanism in incomplete or imperfect governance systems.

Findings

Project participants actively questioned policy but acted on the instructions just the same, which is indicative of how professional ignorance is supportive of governance system that relies on first-line market actors and agencies to implement also incomplete or vaguely stated policy objectives. Incomplete policies derive from challenges in political deliberation and bargaining processes, uncertainty regarding the future and shifting preferences among policy makers and constituencies more widely. In practice, incomplete policies regularly include issues for first-level actors (e.g. on the urban development project level) to handle and to reconcile in their day-to-day work.

Originality/value

On basis of an empirical study of a major urban development project, the study contributes to a growing literature that recognizes the value of professional ignorance in governance systems and in project management practice. The study invites further scholarly research that takes an affirmative of professional ignorance but without overlooking its risks and potential malfunctions.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 16 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 6 June 2018

Alexander Styhre and Maria Norbäck

Passion and interest are the two principal drivers of competitive capitalism, and reconciling the two is conducive to a dynamic and welfare-generating economic system. On…

Abstract

Purpose

Passion and interest are the two principal drivers of competitive capitalism, and reconciling the two is conducive to a dynamic and welfare-generating economic system. On the level of the individual, the same categories can be applied to examining, for example, career choices, at times violating propositions regarding rational expectations as some categories of work include lower economic compensation or higher levels of risk than would be attractive to the median job applicant. The purpose of this paper is to examine how venture workers, employees of life, thinly capitalize science ventures, justify their career choices and how they act in order to create economic security for themselves and their families.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is based on a qualitative data collection methodology and reports on empirical research material from a study of co-workers at life science start-ups. The sample includes salaried employees working at venture capital-backed start-up companies in the life science sector.

Findings

The study indicates that passionate preferences regarding, for example, meaningful work in collaboration with peers, and the ability to participate in the creation of a new venture, have overshadowed the downside risks and the lower level of economic compensation vis-à-vis comparable work. Such findings indicate that deeply meaningful work is a useful analytical category, and that combinations of the favorable market pricing of skills and experiences, as well as state-funded welfare mechanisms, cushioning some of the market risk that employees are exposed to, will provide opportunities for venture labor, i.e. work done at thinly capitalized firms, such as start-ups, per se contributing to a dynamic industry.

Originality/value

The study contributes to the innovation management literature as it examines the key role of salaried venture workers, i.e. workers that do not hold contracts, granting them the right to compensation when venture capital investors make an exit. In addition, the study also discusses the literature on deeply meaningful work, stressing that this is a useful analytical category.

Details

European Journal of Innovation Management, vol. 22 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1460-1060

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 24 October 2019

Alexander Styhre and Björn Remneland-Wikhamn

Indie developers are part of the creative fringe of the video game industry, fashioning an identity for themselves as a community committed to the development of video…

Abstract

Purpose

Indie developers are part of the creative fringe of the video game industry, fashioning an identity for themselves as a community committed to the development of video games as a cultural expression and art form. In playing this role, money-making is ambiguous inasmuch as economic return is honorable if such interests remain unarticulated and execute minimal influence on the development work process, while the possibility of producing a successful commercial video game is simultaneously one of the primary motivations for new industry entrants. The paper aims to discuss this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reports on the empirical material drawn from a study of indie video game developers in Sweden, a leading country for video game development.

Findings

To reconcile tensions between video game development in terms of being both cultural/and artistic production and business activity, easily compromising the perceived authenticity of the subject in the eyes of audiences (e.g. hardcore gamers), indie developers distinguish between monetary motives ex ante and compensation ex post the release of the game. Indie developers thus emphasize the metonymic function of money as this not only indicates economic value and currency but also denotes a number of business practices that indie developers have otherwise avoided in their career planning as they believe these practices would restrain their creativity and skills.

Originality/value

The study contributes to the scholarship on video game development, the literature on creative industries, and the economic sociology literature examining the social meaning of money and how social norms and values are manifested in professional ideologies and practices.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 September 2017

Alexander Styhre

All scholarly writing must straddle the universal and the particular. The universal is commonly addressed in terms of theoretical frameworks and analytical models…

Abstract

Purpose

All scholarly writing must straddle the universal and the particular. The universal is commonly addressed in terms of theoretical frameworks and analytical models, supported by the objectivity norm that has guided scientific inquiry since its inception. The particularities, on the other hand, the details and the nuts and bolts of everyday life and organizational reality, are oftentimes associated with subjectivity and therefore raise concern regarding the scholar’s preferences and convictions. In order to better balance objectivity and subjectivity in the organization studies literature, it is important to pay attention to how the choice of literary style may apprehend and convey organizational realities. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

Discussing the role of literature, and the work of the American short-story writer and poet Raymond Carver, more specifically, as a domain wherein language resonates with the pace and breathing of everyday life, it is suggested that an increased level of “lyrical sensibility” in scholarly vocabularies is conducive to more nuanced accounts of organizational practices. To substantiate Carver’s argument, ethnographies of occupational work is referenced and compared to Carver’s work.

Findings

Carver’s emphasis on writing stories and dialogs that do not hide behind jargon, nor impose unnecessary literary experiments or heavy-handed literary vocabularies on texts, is exemplary to organization researchers. In particular, Carver emphasizes the role of materiality and objects in his stories, the understated tension and concealed conflicts in social situations and relations, and points at how individuals interpret situations wherein they are located; in many cases, leading to apathy and indolence as the protagonists cannot consider meaningful ways to handle perceived issues or to move along. Carver’s emphasis on mundane experience is therefore conducive to a wider recognition of subjectivity in organization studies.

Originality/value

The paper broadens the discussion about organization studies writing by introducing the work of Raymond Carver, a seminal author only sparsely featured in organization and management studies.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 12 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

Keywords

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