Academic journal article Management Dynamics

Multiparadigmatic, Cooperative Opportunities for the Study of Business Management

Academic journal article Management Dynamics

Multiparadigmatic, Cooperative Opportunities for the Study of Business Management

Article excerpt


As a Business Management scholar who has been involved with pedagogical and research activities in this academic domain in South Africa for more than 20 years, it has always puzzled me that the discipline of Business Management (and this concept includes related disciplines such as marketing, human resources, logistics, and small business management), in South Africa at least, seems to be typified by an ongoing debate about, 'inter alia', what constitutes useful knowledge, what is considered rigorous research, and what is the best way to investigate Business Management issues. Advocates of more interpretive methodologies constantly berate positivist scholars for rehashing the same literature base to the n-th degree, thus saying more and more about less and less. In turn, positivists respond by accusing interpretivists of being unscientific and vague.

Yet, despite this tension between the two schools of thought that seem to be mutually exclusive, it is believed that compatibility between them is possible. Furthermore, interpretivism and positivism represent but two traditions (or schools of thought, or paradigms) of inquiry in the academic discipline of Business Management. Although not prominent in the South African discourse - apart from a few individual scholars working in isolation - critical management studies (CMS) has gained a foothold in the Business Management domain since the early 1990s.

The aim of this study, therefore, is to propose a scenario where research and knowledge creation in the discipline of Business Management is presented as a multiparadigmatic academic domain that relies on cooperation between different traditions of inquiry, in an effort to address pressing issues faced by business (and by those affected by the footprint of business) in a more comprehensive and holistic fashion. This relies on an assumption that the burden of addressing all the issues within the ambit of Business Management cannot rest squarely on a single paradigm. Different research questions call for different approaches to the inquiry into them. Also, to propose such a scenario implies that certain entrenched notions about the nature of Business Management as a field of inquiry need to be revisited and dissected. Furthermore, this study attempts to introduce the emergent conventions of CMS to the scholarly South African Business Management community. Critical management studies is by no means a novel idea at a global level, but it is largely unexplored by South African Business Management academics.

This study draws from diverse literary perspectives in an attempt to engage in a dialectic debate whose purpose will be to propose a multiparadigmatic, cooperative picture of research opportunities as the main outcome of the study.

This is also intended to act as a heuristic for a greater commonality of purpose and cohesion in the South African Business Management community of scholars. The discussion will open with a brief discussion of the rise of professional managers and their apparent association with positivist research methodologies as a scholarly tradition. Thereafter, the discussion turns to the nature of Business Management as both an economic and a social science. A multiparadigmatic view of the social sciences is then explored, and the study concludes by proposing a cooperative scenario in which these different paradigms support each other to ensure greater synergies in the ambit of the larger academic domain.


To understand the dynamics of Business Management as a field of inquiry, it is necessary first to shed some light on the act of management, its rise to prominence, and the basic principles on which it rests. The origins of the professional manager can be traced back to the division of capital provision and management in response to the growing scope of business operations (Wren and Bedeian, 2009). …

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