1st Edition

Paradox Towards a Metatheory

By Tom Vine Copyright 2024
    264 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    264 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    History reveals countless attempts by great minds to solve life’s paradoxes. But what if these attempts miss the point? What if paradox is life?

    Contrary to the supposedly sublime linear logic that underpins our prevalent modes of theoretical and empirical enquiry, in this fascinating book, organizational anthropologist Tom Vine charts the pervasiveness of paradox across the academy: from arithmetic to zoology. In so doing, he reflects on the concept of paradox as a widespread existential ‘pattern’, a pattern which holds significant metatheoretical and pedagogical potential. Paradoxes, he argues, are not inconveniences or ‘fault lines in our common-sense world’ but are coded into our very existence. Paradoxes thus present their own vital logics that shape our lives: they thwart moral and ideological uniformity; they even out subjective experience between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’; and they shed light on the opaque concepts of consciousness and agency.

    This book will appeal to anybody with a curious mind, particularly scholars and students with an interest in one or more of the following: complexity theory, critical pedagogies, ethnography, nonlinear dynamics, organization theory, and systems theory.

    1. Introduction

    Part I: The Pervasiveness of Paradox

    2. Paradox and Art

    3. Paradox and Society

    4. Paradox and Organization

    5. Paradox and Nature

    6. Paradox and Ontology

    Part II: The Pedagogical Potential for Paradox

    7. Pedagogical Logic I: Paradox Thwarts Moral Closure

    8. Pedagogical Logic II: Paradox Elicits Egalitarian Inertia

    9. Pedagogical Logic III: Paradox Augments Understanding of Agency

    10. Conclusion


    Tom Vine completed his first two degrees at the University of Warwick before moving to the University of Essex for his doctorate. He is currently Associate Professor at the University of Suffolk. When he's not grappling with Nietzsche, Tom enjoys charity shop crawls, restoring old boats, and cold water swimming in the rivers of East Anglia.

    ‘In this lively, eclectic and consistently stimulating book, Tom Vine identifies the remarkable prevalence of paradox in human life and offers a spirited defence of embracing its peculiar logic. Against the conventional wisdom of means-ends reasoning and calculative rationality, Vine argues that paradox reveals fractures in our common-sense that we would do well to explore and exacerbate rather than eradicate or resolve. Taking an ethnographic, transdisciplinary, wide angle view, Vine’s primary focus is the lived experience of paradox: our counterintuitive tendency to embrace contrary positions and the unfathomable longing to act against our own best interests. In a world that is being re-contoured by rapid advances in artificial intelligence and information technology, Tom Vine’s book is an ardent appeal to the humanising power of paradox.’

    Jill Marsden, Professor of Literature and Philosophy, University of Bolton, UK

    ‘This book represents the active and loving embrace of paradox in art, society, organization, nature and ontology but it also (paradoxically) describes the relationship between author and textual material as grappling, staggering, discombobulating and thorny. Take paradox away from the thinker and you have the tame professor yet (paradoxically) to outwit paradox would be accepting a Faustian pact. Paradox is a vague rule of sociology wherein (paradoxically) there is no universally accepted rule book on anything. Vine has produced a text that is both broad and deep, where we are allowed to see paradox at work, everywhere and at every time. It forcibly opens our eyes just as the reader might want to blink and slink back into a less-pressing, logical and linear comfortableness. It is to be highly commended for its smooth disruptiveness.’

    Gibson Burrell, Professor of Organization Theory, University of Manchester, UK 

    ‘In this important and wide-ranging book Tom Vine makes a strong case for the unique human capacity to entertain one thing and its opposite at the same time. He demonstrates how this is not a result of flawed thinking, but is crucial for exploring complex experience. Vine shows us how paradoxical thinking manifests in the full range of human activity; from art to science, and from pedagogy to the ethics involved in navigating between competing goods.’

    Christopher Mowles, Professor of Complexity and Management, University of Hertfordshire, UK 

    'This book is both stimulatingly provocative and deeply questioning of much of the literature on the bureaucratic phenomenon. Tom Vine advances a Deleuzian perspective on bureaucracy as an ‘emergent and immanent force’ in late modernism. Repetitive and recurrent ‘differences’ within and across its operational planes require life-skills in their positive resolution. In presenting his arguments he draws from a wide range of alternative perspectives.'

    Ray Loveridge, Professor Emeritus, Aston University, UK

    'Tom Vine's erudite and engagingly personal reexamination of bureaucracy offers compelling alternatives to the familiar debate on 'post-bureaucracy' and the pejorative caricatures of bureaucracy in popular management literature. Rather than arguing for or against bureaucracy, Dr Vine's unique approach is to ask how people in organisations experience, navigate and make sense of this phenomenon. He combines autoethnography, literary criticism and expansive scholarship to develop a phenomenology of bureaucracy. Written with refreshing style and a colourful wit, his book offers invaluable insights for the critical study of contemporary organisations.'

    Dr Samuel Mansell, University of St Andrews, UK