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Article

Bradley G. Bowden

The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, it seeks to trace the origins of the various strands of postmodernism within German philosophic idealism; traditions of…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, it seeks to trace the origins of the various strands of postmodernism within German philosophic idealism; traditions of thought which placed emphasis – like postmodernism – on a subjective understanding of evidence and a supposed capacity of human consciousness to continually move beyond the bounds imposed by social convention and being; second, this paper states that postmodernism, rooted as it is in philosophic idealism, is methodologically and conceptually constrained. Its emphasis on consciousness and will marginalize its capacity to make meaningful contributions in areas such as economics, and the wider trends in human history.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is theoretical. It seeks to locate conflicting methodologies – most particularly those relating to postmodernism, positivism and philosophical realism – within the traditions of thought that have emerged since the enlightenment.

Findings

Postmodernism is rooted in philosophical idealism. As such, it places emphasis on consciousness, identity and being. The essential problem with postmodernism, this paper argues, is not this emphasis. These are legitimate areas of inquiry. Rather, the central problem with postmodernist-informed research is found in the limited range of methodological and conceptual tools in its kitbag.

Originality/value

Despite the growing influence of postmodernism in its various shades within academia, few of its proponents and critics trace its philosophic origins. In doing so this paper highlights the strengths and limitations of not only postmodernism but also its polar opposite, positivism.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 14 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

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Article

Simon Mollan

The purpose of this paper is to explore issues related to a recent article by Bradley Bowden published in QROM titled “Empiricism, and modern postmodernism: a critique”…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore issues related to a recent article by Bradley Bowden published in QROM titled “Empiricism, and modern postmodernism: a critique”. The argument presented here is that antagonism between different sub-communities undertaking work related to the “historic-turn” in management and organization studies (MOS) should give way to greater acceptance of different “phenomenal” concerns and different methods of research.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is based on a critical reading and interpretation of relevant texts. This paper critiques recent work by Bradley Bowden. These are then used as a starting point for a discussion of the different ways in which historical research is practiced in MOS.

Findings

The central interpretation developed is that despite many strengths, there are both interpretative and argumentational limitations to Bowden’s criticism that the historic-turn in MOS is postmodernist in nature. In pointing to the varieties of historical research and interpretation in the field, this paper calls for greater and more sympathetic understanding between the different related sub-fields that are interested in history in relation to management and organization.

Research limitations/implications

This paper concludes by calling for more historical work that deals with historiographical and theoretical issues, rather than a continuation of methodological debates that focus on antagonisms between different methods of undertaking historical research to the exclusion of advancing the creation of new historical knowledge, however constructed.

Originality/value

This paper articulates a pluralistic and ecumenical vision for historical research in relation to management and organization. The primary contribution is therefore to attempt to dissolve the seeming assumption of dialectical antagonism between different but related sub-communities of practice.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 14 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

Keywords

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Abstract

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

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Article

Bradley Bowden

Management history has in the past 15 years witnessed growing enthusiasm for “critical” research methodologies associated with the so-called “historic turn”. This paper…

Abstract

Purpose

Management history has in the past 15 years witnessed growing enthusiasm for “critical” research methodologies associated with the so-called “historic turn”. This paper aims to argue, however, that the “historic turn” has proved to an “historic wrong turn”, typically associated with confused and contradictory positions. In consequence, Foucault’s belief that knowledge is rooted in discourse, and that both are rooted in external structures of power, is used while simultaneously professing advocacy of White’s understanding that history is fictive, the product of the historian’s imagination.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper explores the intellectual roots of the historic (wrong) turn in the idealist philosophies of Nietzsche, Croce, Foucault, White and Latour as well as the critiques that have been made of those theories from within “critical” or “Left” theoretical frameworks.

Findings

Failing to properly acknowledge the historical origin of their ideas and/or the critiques of those ideas – and misrepresenting all contrary opinion as “positivist” – those associated with the historic (wrong) turn replicate the errors of their theoretical champions. The author thus witnesses a confusion of ontology (the nature of being) and epistemology (the nature of knowledge) and, consequently, of “facts” (things that exist independently of our fancy), “evidence” (how ascertain knowledge of a fact) and “interpretation” (how I connect evidence to explain an historical outcome).

Originality/value

Directed toward an examination of the conceptual errors that mark the so-called “historic turn” in management studies, this article argues that the holding contradictory positions is not an accidental by-product of the “historic turn”. Rather, it is a defining characteristic of the genre.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Keywords

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Article

Bradley Bowden

Are business outcomes due primarily to entrepreneurial and managerial ability or are they mainly the result of business content? The purpose of this study is to explore…

Abstract

Purpose

Are business outcomes due primarily to entrepreneurial and managerial ability or are they mainly the result of business content? The purpose of this study is to explore this question by comparing the railroads of Victoria and Queensland (Australia) and the South-West and Northern Plains of America between 1881 and 1900. Given the commonalities of the four railway systems in terms of their economic orientation towards rural custom, and their marked difference in terms of ownership, one would expect similarities in their financial circumstances if outcomes were primarily determined by fluctuations in global commodity markets. Conversely, marked differences would be expected if outcomes primarily resulted from managerial initiative.

Design/methodology/approach

Conceptually, this study is informed by the idea that social and economic outcomes are shaped by long historical movements, with meaningful structural change occurring rarely but to great effect. In exploring this concept through a comparison of the railways of Australia and the American West, the study draws on two forms of archival evidence. One source of evidence relates to railroad management, operations and finances. Figures cited come primarily from Australian railway commissioners’ reports and Poor’s Manual of the Railroads of the USA. The other source of evidence relates to agricultural statistics. These are drawn from official reports.

Findings

This study argues that effective strategic decision-making can only occur if we understand the structural changes that alter our world. In the late nineteenth century, the Australian and American railroads servicing newly settled rural regions were financial failures because management failed to appreciate the structural changes that the revolution in steam-powered transport had initiated; a revolution which resulted in commodity prices – and hence, the railway rates for farm produce – being determined by global demand and supply balances rather than by local factors. As a result, they continued a policy of expansion that was no longer financially justified.

Originality/value

This study seeks to contribute to a fundamental debate in historical studies and management about the drivers of social and economic change. Increasingly, there is acceptance of the view that historical circumstances are inherently unstable and what counts is the particular change cascading through a myriad of “events”. This study points in a contrary direction, suggesting that business outcomes are primarily determined by deep structural shifts that can be understood and steered but seldom opposed.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 23 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

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Article

Bradley Bowden and Peta Stevenson-Clarke

Postmodernist ideas – most particularly those of Foucault but also those of Latour, Derrida and Barthes – have had a much longer presence in accounting research than in…

Abstract

Purpose

Postmodernist ideas – most particularly those of Foucault but also those of Latour, Derrida and Barthes – have had a much longer presence in accounting research than in other business disciplines. However, in large part, the debates in accounting history and management history, have moved in parallel but separate universes. The purpose of this study is therefore one of exploring not only critical accounting understandings that are significant for management history but also one of highlighting conceptual flaws that are common to the postmodernist literature in both accounting and management history.

Design/methodology/approach

Foucault has been seminal to the critical traditions that have emerged in both accounting research and management history. In exploring the usage of Foucault’s ideas, this paper argues that an over-reliance on a set of Foucauldian concepts – governmentality, “disciplinary society,” neo-liberalism – that were never conceived with an eye to the problems of accounting and management has resulted in not only in the drawing of some very longbows from Foucault’s formulations but also misrepresentations of the French philosophers’ ideas.

Findings

Many, if not most, of the intellectual positions associated with the “Historic Turn” and ANTi-History – that knowledge is inherently subjective, that management involves exercising power at distance, that history is a social construct that is used to legitimate capitalism and management – were argued in the critical accounting literature long before Clark and Rowlinson’s (2004) oft cited call. Indeed, the “call” for a “New Accounting History” issued by Miller et al. (1991) played a remarkably similar role to that made by Clark and Rowlinson in management and organizational studies more than a decade later.

Originality/value

This is the first study to explore the marked similarities between the critical accounting literature, most particularly that related to the “New Accounting History” and that associated with the “Historic Turn” and ANTi-History in management and organizational studies.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Keywords

Content available

Abstract

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 25 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

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Article

Nicholous M. Deal, Milorad M. Novicevic, Albert J. Mills, Caleb W. Lugar and Foster Roberts

This paper aims to find common ground between the supposed incompatible meta-historical positioning of positivism and post-positivism through a turn to mnemohistory in…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to find common ground between the supposed incompatible meta-historical positioning of positivism and post-positivism through a turn to mnemohistory in management and organizational history.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on the idea of creative synthesis and positioning theory, the authors interject concepts from cultural memory studies in historical research on business and organizations to encourage management historians and organization theorists interested in joining the dialogue around how the past is known in the present. Using notions of “aftermath” and “events,” the idea of apositivism is written into historical organization studies to focus on understanding the complex ways of how past events translate into history. The critical historic turn event is raised as an exemplar of these ideas.

Findings

The overview of the emergence of the controversial historic turn in management and organization studies and the positioning of its adherents and antagonists revealed that there may be some commonality between the fragmented sense of the field. It was revealed that effective history vis-à-vis mnemohistory may hold the potential of a shared scholarly ethic.

Originality/value

The research builds on recent work that has sought to bring together the boundaries of management and organizational history. This paper explains how mnemohistory can offer a common position that is instrumental for theorizing the relationships among the past-infused constructs such as organizational heritage, legacy and identity.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Keywords

Content available

Abstract

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 26 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

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Article

Bradley Bowden

The aim of this study is to outline principles for the writing of management history. First, it is argued that if management history is to advance, pessimism of both…

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this study is to outline principles for the writing of management history. First, it is argued that if management history is to advance, pessimism of both purpose and intellect must be dispelled. Authors must bring with them a sense of how their research leads to better organisations, institutions, workplaces, economies and social relationships. Second, it holds that the utilisation of the scientific method, based around the testing of research theses, drawn from our existing knowledge and contributing to that knowledge, is management history’s methodological bedrock.

Design/methodology/approach

Much opposition to scientific methods in historical research, most notably from postmodernists and poststructuralists, is based on false premises. Drawing on Poincare’s La Science et L’Hypothese (1902), this paper notes that there are no fundamental differences between research in the natural and historical sciences. All studies are conditional.

Findings

This editorial recommends five steps in writing management history. First, know how your sources were put together, by whom, for what purposes, what they sought to record and what they did not. Second, use multiple sources. Third, keep your research questions in mind, modifying them as evidence demands. As E.H. Carr observed, research theses are “the indispensable tools of thought”. Fourth, understand the social, intellectual and economic contexts of the study. Context is the key to understanding change. The more severe the restraint on change, the more significant is any change that breaks these bonds. Finally, use numbers as numbers count in history. While statistics must be subordinate to the theses, they allow more complex stories, be they of a society or micro-events within a firm.

Originality/value

The growth of postmodernist and poststructuralist research paradigms has created uncertainty with regards to both methods and purpose among management and business historians. This editorial includes a defence of the values of empirically based scientific research.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 22 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

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