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“The State of Organisation Theory in 2017”

A seminar by Prof Gibson Burrell; Leicester School of Business/Manchester Business School Visiting Scholar, UCD College of Business

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Feb 22, 2017
from 03:15 PM to 04:45 PM


Room MH101 UCD Michael Smurfit Business School, Blackrock campus.

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The presentation begins with the recent words of increasingly powerful institutional actors in our discipline and what they signify about their conception of ‘what needs to be done’ and ‘how it needs to be done’ in order to rectify the many failings that they identify. Their diktats are seen to reflect the drive towards an integrated, general theory of organisations and the conception of organisation studies as a nomothetic science to which they (and perforce we) are philosophically and ideologically committed. These are forces at work on both sides of the Atlantic. Our critique of this emerging orthodoxy within contemporary organisation theory draws on Swift’s metaphor of Lilliputian ‘big enders’ and ‘little enders’ to illustrate the banality and futility of a revivified conception of organisation studies as a nomothetic science in which the accumulation of a generic knowledge base through standardization, replication and codification becomes the overriding goal. But we also draw upon the architectural metaphors of ‘cathedral’, ‘mystery house’ and ‘tower of babel’ to consider the imaginary edifices that contemporary Organization Theorists may draw upon and ask what might be the consequences of valorising each of these. Our specification of an alternative research agenda is one which focuses on ‘the organization of destruction’. Rather than seeing any plurality of intellectual traditions, analytical frameworks and methodological strategies as intellectual manacles and shackles which we need to ‘throw off’ to rediscover our true vocation as organisational scientists, the discipline needs to reignite a dialogue over ‘organisation’ and its relation to order and disorder that has stretched over, at least, two millennia and still speaks to our lives today and tomorrow.

Prof Gibson Burrell is visiting UCD College of Business as Visiting Scholar until March 3rd. Prof Burrell has worked primarily in the area of ‘Organization Theory’ (OT) and is well known for, in particular, co-authoring the seminal Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis with Gareth Morgan, as well as a series of articles with Bob Cooper in the journal ‘Organization Studies’. In 2015 he was awarded a prize by the American Academy of Management for lifetime contribution to OT and a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship for 2015-6. He was Founding Editor of the journal ‘Organization’ and he is currently section Editor for the ‘Journal of Business Ethics’.

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