European and North American Approaches to Organizations and Strategy Research: An Atlantic Divide? Not
Organization Science, Forthcoming
17 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2011
Date Written: February 14, 2011
It is customary among contemporary organization theorists to equate North American and European scholarship with objectivist and subjectivist metatheoretical positions (respectively), treat these positions as mutually exclusive alternatives, and debate which is best suited to understanding organizational phenomena. Fueled by this dispute, questions of bias and fears of colonization are readily apparent in academic reviews of three recent “handbooks” of organizations. Caught in the current of these tensions, I was prompted to assess the status of this “Atlantic divide.” To do so, I examined the three recent compendia in terms of the rhetoric academic reviewers employed to characterize them and the geographic locations, preferred journals, and university affiliations of scholars who refer to them. The results are striking. Despite the unanimous typecasting of the volumes as epitomizing either objectivist North American or subjectivist European traditions, the geographic distributions of researchers citing them are indistinguishable. Citations to each compendium are, however, clustered within particular journals and among authors with particular university affiliations — but neither the journals nor universities are neatly North American or European. Current associations of these traditions with North American and European scholarship thus seem driven more by academic rhetoric than authentic continental distinctions. I examine the roots of this rhetorical mapping and explore its implications for the field. I advocate abandonment of the myth of the Atlantic divide and exploitation of perspectives that do not privilege the subjectivist–objectivist dichotomy.
Keywords: objectivist, subjectivist, organizational theory, Atlantic divide
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By E. Stam