According to Hatch and Cunliffe (2006), there are three major perspectives about the study of organization theory (OT): modern, symbolic interpretive, and postmodern. Each of these perspectives comes with its own assumptions and methodologies. Hatch and Cunliffe provided an introduction text about the concepts and characteristics of the three OT perspectives. Tsoukas and Knudsen also compiled a comprehensive handbook summarizing all facets of the meta-theoretical perspectives. In this post the writer will discuss the basic concepts of three perspectives, present Hatch and Cunliffe’s reasons why a multiple perspectives approach to organization theory is important, and compare Tsoukas and Knudsen’s introduction to the Hatch and Cunliffe introduction in their books.
According to Hatch and Cunliffe, modern perspective was prevailed in 1960s and 1970s. Modernists believe that organizations are objectively real entities operating in a real world. When well-designed and managed they are systems of decision and action driven by norms of rationality, efficiency and effectiveness for stated purposes. Modernists put focus on organization theory by finding universal laws, methods and techniques of organization and control; favors rational structures, rules, standardized procedures and routine practices (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006, p. 14). Modernists collect data through five senses: heard, smell, taste, or touch, with sense-enhancing devices such as microscope or telescope (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006, p. 15).
Symbolic-interpretive perspective was prevailed in 1980s. Symbolic-interpretivists believe that we cannot know an external or objective existence apart from our subjective awareness of it. They think organization are continually constructed and reconstructed by their members through symbolically mediated interaction. Organizations are socially constructed realities where meanings promote and are promoted by understanding of the self and others that occurs within the organizational context (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006, p. 14). Symbolic-interpretivists put focus on organization theory by describing how people give meaning and order to their experience within specific contexts, through interpretive and symbolic acts, forms and processes. Symbolic-interpretivists extend the definition of empirical reality to include forms of experience, emotion and intuition. As a result of this subjectivity, some of their data and finding cannot be easily replicated by others.
Postmodern perspective gained popularity in 1990s. Postmodernist think that both modern and symbolic-interpretive perspectives are not good enough. Postmodernist think organizations are sites for enacting power relations, oppression, irrationality, communicative distortion, or arenas of fun and playful irony. Organizations are texts produced by and in language; we can rewrite them so as to emancipate ourselves from human folly and degradation (Hatch & Cunliffe,...