1st Edition

Rethinking the Knowledge Controversy in Organization Studies A Generative Uncertainty Perspective

By Walter R. Nord, Ann F. Connell Copyright 2011
    278 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Recently the field of organization studies has been plagued by intense, disruptive controversy about what counts as knowledge. This book, written by the major researchers and voices in the field of organization studies, attempts to respond to this controversy by offering the topic of "generative uncertainty" as the primary vehicle for rethinking about this issue. The authors prefer admitting uncertainty to making unwarranted assumptions. The ideas about questioning the possibility of knowledge that is certain goes back to before the time of Socrates. This unique, historical look at the study of organization studies will be of interest to all students and scholars of this field.

    Part 1. Rethinking Organization Studies 1. Generative Uncertainty. 2. Ramifications of Generative Uncertainty for Organization Studies. Part 2. Historical Factors 3. In the Shadow of Certainty: Interplay of Certainty and Uncertainty in the West. 4. Neo-institutional View of Scientism and the Organization Studies Knowledge Controversy. 5. Origins of the Knowledge Controversy in the History of Organization Studies. 6. Key Themes in the Debate about Orthodox Science in the Study of Organizations. 7. Organization Scholars’ Responses to the Breakdown of Orthodoxy. Part 3. Alternatives 8. Alternative Approaches for the Knowledge Controversy. Part 4. Letting Go 9. Letting Go of Misguided Attempts to Emulate Physics. 10. Letting Go of Agonism. 11. Toward Post-Agonistic Communication: Conversation in Organization Studies Part 5. Conclusion 12. Generative Uncertainty.


    Walter R. Nord is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Management at the University of South Florida. He received his Ph.D. (1967) in social psychology from Washington University-St. Louis where he was a member of the faculty at the Olin School of Business. Since 1989 he has been a member of the faculty at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He has published numerous articles and books in the field of organization studies. He received the Distinguished Educator award from the Academy of Management and was a co-recipient of the Terry Book Award from the Academy of Management for the Handbook of Organization Studies.

    Ann F.Connell received her Ph.D. in psychology (concentration in statistics and measurement) from Washington University-St. Louis (1968). She was a member of the faculty of Lindenwood College and has taught in the business school at the University of South Florida. She was a clinical psychologist in St. Louis, Missouri 1975 -1989. She has published articles on the philosophy of social science and co-authored a book on native plants in Florida.

    "Nord and Connell’s book is a timely contribution. They remind us of questions that have been debated for at least two millennia: how do we know that we know? What counts as knowledge? And they proceed to discuss them with impressive breadth and frank reflexivity in what may be their most important work to date: part an encyclopedic review, part an intellectual memoir, part a philosophical manifesto." - Sheen S. Levine, Columbia University, USA, in Administrative Science Quarterly

    "I am so proud of the authors for having written such a tome. It will be required reading for so many students. I believe it's the most important book published on the matter of organization studies since March and Simons (1958) volume." - Craig Pinder, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada

    "Anyone teaching in the area of organization studies will find it a useful summary and statement about the history and current state of the debate, even if they disagree with the authors' conclusions. If you are looking for a good primer and argument about the history and background of the meta-assumptions involved in organizational studies, this book is well worth reading." - Mayer N. Zald, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, USA

    "What is new and unique is the thorough and detailed historical review of philosophy of science issues as they relate to organization studies." - John Luhman, East New Mexico State University, USA

    "This book contributes to recent debates about the nature of knowledge by providing a careful and serious survey of the history of Western skepticism. With a focus on organization studies, the authors explain how "constructive uncertainty" can make discussions more productive by helping scholars to avoid polarized positions." - William H. Starbuck, University of Oregon and New York University, USA

    "This book will attract attention; it will be debated and discussed and reviewers will find it controversial for different reasons. Instructors will find it a very useful guide for students for whom these debates sometimes seem very abstract and unclear. It is written in a very clear and accessible style so undergraduates will be able to grasp it easily." - Stewart Clegg, Research Director CMOS, Faculty of Business, University of Technology, Sydney