Organizational Theory Development: Displacement of Ends ?

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In this essay I argue that organization theory has witnessed a significant displacement of ends over the last 30 years. Whereas in the 1960s and 1970s the dominant goal of the discipline was achieving consensus on the validity status of theories, today the overriding goal appears to be development of new theory. Formerly new theory development was considered a means to the end of attaining consensus on theory validity, but was not the only activity deemed necessary to accomplish that goal. In addition, instrumental standardization and replication were viewed as important. The contemporary displacement of ends toward new theory development creates the paradox that organization theory today is both epistemologically simpler (in terms of the intellectual activity deemed desirable) and more complex theoretically than it was 30 years ago. I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the displacement of ends toward new theory development in organization theory, and offer some possible remedies that are designed to reallocate priorities and resources toward the instrumentation, theory testing, and replication components of the research process. I also propose an agenda of future research in the history and sociology of organization science that would study the displacement of ends hypothesized here, with a view to improving our understanding of how organization theory has evolved and how its knowledge could be made more useful to managers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)47-68
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 01.2010
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Entrepreneurship - displacement of ends, knowledge, management practive, organization theory