To the extent that ‘classical organization theory’ is seen to possess any enduring interest it is mainly as a historic artefact. The idea that the principles, axioms, adages and devices elaborated by its proponents any longer possess traction in the present is rarely countenanced. In contrast to this customary view, the present article seeks to indicate the continuing significance of classical organization theory, for both analysing and intervening in organizational life. This necessitates a reconstruction of the conventional understanding of this received term, one in which classical organization theory is viewed less as ‘theory’ in the conventional sense, but rather as a geographically dispersed, institutionally disconnected and historically discontinuous ‘stance’, characterized, inter alia, by a pragmatist call to experience, an antithetical attitude to ‘high’ or transcendental theorizing, and, not least, an ethical focus on organizational effectiveness born of a close connection to ‘the work itself’ or ‘the situation at hand’. Deploying the term ‘classic organization theory’ in this way, to refer to a stance, attitude or comportment, and an associated persona that bears it, we are able to highlight the significant differences between this comportment and the increasingly ‘metaphysical’ attitude characterizing many contemporary approaches to organization and organizing, not simply in organization studies, but also more widely in sociology and cultural economy.
- Classical organization theory
- Pierre Hadot
- Corporate scandals