Situating organizational action: the relational sociology of organizations

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Mutch, A ; Delbridge, R ; Ventresca, M (2006)

This paper advances a relational sociology of organization that seeks to address concerns over how organizational action is understood and situated. The approach outlined here is one which takes ontology seriously and requires transparency and consistency of position. It aims at causal explanation over description and/or prediction and seeks to avoid pure voluntarism or structural determinism in such explanation. We advocate relational analysis that recognizes and engages with connections within and across organization and with wider contexts. We develop this argument by briefly reviewing three promising approaches: relational pragmatism, the social theorizing of Bourdieu and critical realism, highlighting their ontological foundations, some similarities and differences and surfacing some methodological issues. Our purpose is to encourage analysis that explores the connections within and between perspectives and theoretical positions. We conclude that the development of the field of organization theory will benefit from self conscious and reflexive engagement and debate both within and across our various research positions and traditions only if such debates are conducted on the basis of holistic evaluations and interpretations that recognize (and value) difference.
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