Three Perspectives of Organization Theory

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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 construct...

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...sessment of fellow practitioners. Tsoukas and Knudsen (2005) commented Hatch and Cunliffe symbolic-interpretive view as meaning-making with storytelling and narration (p. 17).

In this essay the writer summarized three perspectives (modern, symbolic interpretive, and postmodern) about the OT study and pointed out the differences between Hatch and Cunliffe recommendation and Tsoukas and Knudsen’s critical approach in their book introductions.

Works Cited

Hatch, M. J., & Cunliffe, A. L. (2006). Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tsoukas, H., & Knudsen, C. (2005). Introduction: The need for meta-theoretical reflection in organizatin theory. In H. Tsoukas & C. Knudsen (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory: Meta-theoretical Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
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