Postmodernism Offers Little in the Way of Organisational Theory to the Practicing Manager: A Reflexive Account

By Sawyer, Peter | Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Postmodernism Offers Little in the Way of Organisational Theory to the Practicing Manager: A Reflexive Account


Sawyer, Peter, Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science


ABSTRACT

The paper is an exploration of the usefulness of postmodern theory to today's manager. In particular, the paper asks whether it can be applied in practice. Decentring the self through a two-voice device aids in this analysis but leads to another dilemma. Where does the questioning end? The paper ends with a challenge about authenticity.

In a nutshell I am an undergraduate student that has been engaging with a journey through postmodern theory and critical thinking within the context of my management degree. As part of the sense-making process I have been scribing my thoughts about the problematics of seeing postmodernism as a 'body of knowledge' and the attendant difficulties of attempting to put into management practice ideas which are both deeply theoretical and which refuse to be 'pinned down'. I am a naïve student at the end of my studies, but at the beginning of making sense of the world and myself. This paper is trying to gain an understanding of the postmodernist versus modernist debate in relation to the practicing manager. The tools that help me achieve where I stand in this debate are reflexivity and decentring the subject.

This paper is somewhat unusual as me and myself are in joint-authorship of this paper. We have adopted this critical approach to the paper from the paper by Pinch and Pinch (1991). In this approach we will be able to see whether postmodernism is useful to the practicing manager.

Finally as junior author I get my say. We didn't adopt this approach; I just disagreed with your opinions on this matter. So I think that we decided to show both our opinions for once, instead of being the perfect student, if there's such thing. We just happen to write this paper like the Pinch paper.

Okay, okay. Maybe that's right, but that's your opinion. You may have also noticed the irony in this paper. I (the bold typeface) take the postmodernist approach to this argument and I am the senior author, and for once the modernist has to take a seat in the junior division on this occasion.

Hey, stop there a minute! This is a jointauthorship, so we are equally important to this paper.

A good way to start this paper would be a definition of "porno" (postmodernism). What is postmodernism? Defining postmodernism is challenging because a complete and agreed upon definition remains elusive. Hassard (1993) begins by outlining the distinction between postmodernism as a periodization of organisational and social forms (postmodernity - an ontology) and postmodernism as a set of problems with the representation of knowledge about organisations (an epistemology). I have decided to discuss postmodernism from the epistemological approach.

Stop right there. What do you mean define postmodernism. I thought that postmodernism couldn't be defined. And that postmodernist's don't put a label to their work. This is ironic isn't it?

I haven't defined postmodernism because there isn't a definition; currently we possess no firm agreed meaning for the concept. Instead we find a range of meanings associated with this generic term. Postmodernism could be seen as a new period of time. It could be seen as a theoretical framework focusing on the role of language and symbolism in the phenomenon of social and psychological control (Feldman, 1998). It could also just be a name given to the most open examination of what knowing in the contemporary circumstance signifies (Letiche, 1996).

So when you mean a new period of time, you must be talking about a new discourse. Already, romanticist discourse is largely displaced by modernist understandings. Is the modernist discourse going to be displaced by postmodernist understandings? This seems hard to believe?

I'm not suggesting that. I'm just signifying that there is a different discourse (i.e. postmodernism) available when trying to understand a problem. But there seems to be a contradiction in the postmodern literature. …

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