Philosophy - Organization theories - Postmodernism
Postmodernism refers to a general term that encompasses diverse fields such as literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and so on
It is originally an architectural movement constructed in opposition to modernism. Whereas modernism corresponds to a perspective whose epistemology is positivism, a perspective that focuses on finding universal laws, methods and structures in the human organizations, that asserts that reality can be known objectively; postmodernism is both a perspective and its own epistemology, that focuses on the deconstructions of organizational texts, on destabilizing managerial ideologies and modernist modes of organizing or theorizing, on revealing marginalized, oppressed viewpoints, on encouraging reflexive and inclusive forms of theorizing and organizing. (Hatch, 2006, 14). Since it is really difficult to define and delimit postmodernism, and since it is mainly constructed in opposition to the modern perspective (the prefix 'post'' means at the same time a continuity, a modification and a rupture that happens chronologically after), we will have to precise the meaning of the latter. (1)
What are the main characteristics of this postmodern perspective? Firstly, a criticism of the rationality overly defended by the modern perspective, which means an emphasis on sensibility and subjective interpretations. Secondly, a different way to reach truth: this perspective stands that we do not have access to reality and to a universal truth, on the contrary, truth is a matter of perspective or specific context, since reality is constantly shifting and fluid. Thirdly, an opposition to the dualism and a wish to go beyond simple opposition, by promoting pluralism and diversity. Lastly, a different approach to language: language is creating our mind, thus, is creating reality. In a nutshell, postmodernism is the view that reality cannot be known nor described objectively.
[...] Aristotle already perceived the ontological problem of skepticism, when he claimed: ‘'if nothing can be truly asserted, even the following claim would be false, the claim that there is no true assertion.'' Thus, postmodernism should claim more precisely that we are limited by social, constructed, cultural truths, and by the our personal experience (thanks to our corporal senses). Therefore, the postulates of postmodern perspective have to be understood as only relative truth, that can be compatible with other relative truths. For instance, postmodernism must accept both theories of creation of the world: the Darwinian one, and the Christian / religious one A pessimist philosophy? Secondly, we could say that postmodern philosophy perhaps lacks of ambition. [...]
[...] In Landmarks to Tomorrow, (1957) Peter Drucker for the first time applied the term "postmodern" to organization. By this term, he meant a shift from the Cartesian universe of mechanical cause/effect (subject/object duality) to a new universe of pattern, purpose, and process. Therefore, the ideas of postmodernism form a new vision of the organization on different levels: the place of the individuals within the organization, their vision of the organization and of relationships, the characteristics of the leader and manager and his/her tasks of controlling, coordinating, commanding, organizing, planning. [...]
[...] The power of language is also visible through what Wittgenstein calls ‘'language games''. Language is determining its own rules of play, for instance, it provides the rules on what can be said, how, by whom in a classroom. Postmodern theorists also question the texts: they claim that texts do not have authority or objectivity to reveal neither the intention of the author nor what really happened in the past (trueness cannot be checked through texts), but they reflect the prejudices, the specific culture and era of the author The recognition of the sensibility and uniqueness of human being. [...]
[...] Although the postmodernism concern especially European and American countries, it design a melting pot of worldwide cultures. This diversity leads to the creation of subcultures and a fragmented culture, according to Martin and Meyerson. Postmodern theorists admit that organizational culture is only a way to empower people who already are dominating the organization: therefore, their task consist of unmask the power relations hidden behind the illusions of culture, thanks to deconstruction and acceptation of difference. Some of them consider that the idea of shared understanding (culture) is an illusion, and therefore so is organizational culture. [...]
[...] S/he is not the political charismatic leader in which a large part of the population has faith anymore. We can summarize the characteristics (key words) of the postmodern organization in comparison to the modern organization in this table: CONCLUSIONS We can summarize the origins of postmodern perspective on organization theories in this schema, at the intersection of these 3 circles (these circles are interdependent): We have shown in this essay that the postmodern perspective on organization theories has been shaped by both the preceding organizations theories and the philosophical roots, (and that the former is shaped by the latter). [...]
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