Theorizing the Organization

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Part A: theorizing the organization

Organization theory can be observed from modern, symbolic interpretative, critical and postmodern perspectives that provide us with values, distinct beliefs and knowledge. In this essay, I will discuss on how modernists and postmodernist perspective differ in their basic ontological and epistemological assumptions, different ways of understanding and contributes to different ideas about power and the limits of power in organization.

Ontology and Epistemology are intertwined, as these philosophical choices explain basic differences between the perspectives of organization theory (Hatch & Cunliffe 2006). Both ontology and epistemology establish unique research methods, interest and beliefs even though they position themselves differently. Ontology refers to the objects of knowledge that emphasize on the fundamental and principle aspects of human minds (Coffey 1914). It also discusses on what people define to be real and their assumptions of reality. According to Cooper (1999), epistemology is the study of the certainty and truth of human knowledge, how knowledge is derived and the mental factors associating in knowing.

Modernist believes that subjective understanding result in bias, and bias is precisely what science seeks to remove in pursuit of the rational ideals of modernism (Hatch & Cunliffe 2006). The modernist perspective involve in taking a positivist approach to generate knowledge and pay attention on the organization as an independent object entity. Modernist is inhibited by their assumption of objectivity by admitting the subjective to enter their science (Hatch & Cunliffe 2006). Hypothesis test is one of the modernist test methods in deriving a rational and quantitative framework that depend on the use of mathematical mode.

For postmodernist perspective, they believe that everything is subjective to them and does not believe in objective reality. Postmodernist pay no attention to in seeking truth as compared to modernist through scientific endeavor, as they believe that perceived truth is reliant on societal influences and perspective. Derrida (1973) argued that difference is actually a unity, which at the same time divided from itself, and since it is that which constitutes human discourse. Therefore, deconstruction is formed which is the opposite process of construction that shows how superficial and practical social world structures are today (Linstead 2004). The modernist theorists devote attention to organization power as an internalized distribution of power within an organization. The modernist believe that managers need to exercise power in order to dominate decision making so that they can boost effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. This led to the modernist idea of bureaucracy and hierarchy in the organization. In the view of modernist perspective, bureaucracy is the idea of structure where a legitimized hierarchy of authority to control and supervise workers (Clegg 1990).

Strategic, contingency theory and resource dependence theory both contribute on how power is a resultant of uncertainty in organization-environmental relations. In Hickson and Hinings’ explanation of strategic contingency theory, subunit or department attains power to deal with sources of uncertainty that would disrupt organizational performance (Bess & Dee 2008). Resource dependence theory further explains that power is developed through the control of specific resources that are crucial in dealing with the demands of the external environment (Pfeffer & Salancik 2003).

The three theories of modernist control can be breakdown into cybernetic control, agency theory and the market, bureaucracy or clan control. Performance evaluation and reward mechanism is through cybernetic control model to measure behavior and output. Agency theory’s intention is to ensure that managers act in the best interest of owners. Bureaucratic control by administer bureaucratic...
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