Exploring the Life-World of Organizations by Linguistic Oriented Phenomenology in Sub-Cultural Analysis of Organizations: A Comparison between Japanese and U.S. Banks

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study is to bring new insights and methodologies into the cross-cultural research of business. Is there a wide variety to generate new knowledge for methodologies in cross-cultural study of business? What are the basic motives for conducting the cross-cultural research in business? This study responds to these fundamental questions by demonstrating new approaches to cross-cultural research. It also includes a comparative case between Japanese and the U.S. bank in the aspects of organisational culture.

The following study elaborates the phenomenological view of organisation as "life-world" or "social-world" (i.e., Habermas 1984, Husserl 1982, Schutz 1967) created, maintained and generated through intersubjectivity (Habermas 1984, Schutz 1967). It also advocates the eclectic methods of linguistic oriented phenomenology, quantitative display and semiotic interpretation in the analysis.

This study reports the "partial results" in the conceptual aspects of organisational culture. "Partial results" mean that the focus of investigation is on the comparison of sub-units within an organisational culture in cross-cultural contexts. This study focuses on superior-subordinate distance because this is the significant feature that makes the distinction between Japanese and U.S. organisations (Hull/Azumi 1988, Smith/Peterson/Misumi/Bond 1992, Takahashi 1991, Tausky/Chelte 1988).


Paradigms for Organisational Analysis

The purpose of this study is not to provide an extensive review in organisational culture, so only relevant points to this study are discussed. Cultural approaches to organisations belong to the interpretative paradigm in Burrell and Morgan's (1979) classification. Among many approaches to studies of culture, the researcher adopts cognitive approaches. Czarniawska-Joerges (1992) says that cognitive anthropology or ethnoscience (ethnoscience hereafter) and constructivism or phenomenological sociology (phenomenological sociology hereafter) basically belong to the cognitive approaches to studying organisational culture. Organisational researchers in the U.S. seem to have put an emphasis on the anthropological sides and use the language of anthropology. This may be because cultural anthropology was introduced to U.S. management literature as an alternative to conventional management doctrines that emphasise rationality, objectivity and control (i.e., Wilkins/Ouchi 1983) in the early stage of cultural studies in organisations. If anthropological positions are taken for further discussions, ethnoscience is the discipline to be adopted in the inquiry for cognitive aspects of organisational culture (Czarniawska-Joerges 1992). This study, however, focuses on the sociological sides in the cognitive analysis of organisations because the philosophical grounds in ethnoscience have already shown the limitation for further development. Although phenomenological sociology belongs to cognitive approaches, they offer an alternative for studying cognitive aspects of organisational culture.

Ethnoscience in Organisations

Goodenough (1956) pioneered ethnoscientific methods of studying cultures. In ethnoscience, culture is considered as a system of rules that specify the forms of behaviour the natives would consider them appropriate under certain circumstances (Goodenough 1964). When organisational researchers apply ethnoscientific approaches to the analysis of culture in organisations, they see members in organisations thinking as well as behaving (Smircich 1983). The purpose of research derived from ethnoscience in organisations is, therefore, to explore the structures of knowledge in operating rules or scripts that guide actions in workplaces (Smircich 1983). Several scholars have already applied these approaches to the investigation of organisational cultures (i.e., Gregory 1983, Chikudate 1991).

Limitation of Ethnoscience

Although ethnoscience seems to have opened new directions in the investigation of organisational phenomena, some aspects of analytical procedures must be improved. …


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