International Journal of Business and Management Review (IJBMR)

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A Critique of the Adequacy of Positivist and Interpretivist Views of Organisational Studies for Understanding the 21st Century Organisation(S)


This paper theoretically evaluated the adequacy or otherwise of the Positivist/Managerialist approach to organisational study in understanding organisations. The review of related literature revealed that positivism and managerialism through their scientific and quantitative characteristics help organisational researchers achieve an objective understanding of organisations which enables managers to make informed predictions about future expectations of business activities but the approaches do not take cognizance of the human experiences and subjective influences which more often than not exact great impact on organisational performance thereby making the decisions made following the outcome of positivist-managerialist oriented studies unrealistic and basically insufficient for understanding 21st century organisations. On the contrary, the literature shows that interpretivists/critics argue that organisational processes and activities can only be understood and interpreted in the light of the context in which they happen and by taking into account the subjective characteristics of the actors and conclusions are drawn from the real life experiences and context-based perspective of those actors. However the findings based on the interpretivist approach is ineffective for making predictions about future events and therefore often seen by managers as absolutely unnecessary and practically irrelevant for achieving predetermined goals. It was therefore concluded that none of the alternative approaches on their own can lead to a complete understanding of organisations hence the paper suggests a mixed method such that the scientific, quantitative qualities of positivism can complement the subjective, qualitative qualities of interpretivism and vice versa, for a better understanding of organisations while the search for the one-best approach continues.

Keywords: Critics, Interpretivism, Managerialism, Mixed Method, Positivism

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