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Title: Rhetoric and the intellectual structure of organisation studies
Author: Ratle, Olivier
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 5868
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis is about the politics of debating what sort of knowledge should be produced by organisation researchers. It proposes to look at an old problem from a new angle, using the idea of rhetoric to draw insights into the long-standing debate about the intellectual structure of the field of organisation studies. Featuring two antithetical projects ('unifying' the field vs. allowing or even encouraging theoretical pluralism), that debate is considered by many commentators to be gridlocked and irresolvable. However this thesis asserts that more scrutiny should be given to the rhetorical aspects of the debate in order to understand why it is in this state. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 develop a general framework for analysing the debate, suggesting that paradigm disputes can be seen as instances of rhetorical boundary-work. Chapters 4,5 and 6 present three separate studies, united by their common outlook: each study posits that paying attention to rhetoric can highlight factors that hamper a potential resolution of the debate. Chapter 4 analyses the rhetoric of a landmark controversy about the intellectual structure of the field, and shows how the rhetorical strategies pursued by the discussants mediated the outcome of the controversy, and potentially prevented significant advances. Chapter 5 looks at how the ambiguity and polysemy of concepts can be mobilised as a crucial rhetorical resource in the design of arguments justifying the theoretical unification of the field. The chapter allows that a lack of a common and shared understanding of the meaning of notions like 'paradigm' and 'incommensurability' does hamper the resolution of the debate, but it also recognises that any attempt to generate such a shared understanding will encounter major difficulties given the importance of the meaning of concepts as a site for boundary-work. Chapter 6 posits that what can explain the longevity of the debate is the rhetorical flexibility of the positions enacted within the debate. Focusing on one particular position, the project of 'unifying' the field, the chapter shows how, over time, contributors to the debate have pursued significantly different rhetorical strategies in order to maintain the legitimacy of their project.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available