This essay argues for reinforcing the empirical stance within organization studies by more systematically presuming non-organization. The empirical stance within organization studies thereby comes to revolve around organization as a claim made in empirical inquiries. The presumption of non-organization takes the legal principle of presumption of innocence as its paradigm. It works by placing the burden of proof on the empirical inquiries to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that what is inquired into is an instance of organization (where organization may be understood in terms of organizing, organization of something, formal organization etc.). Organization scholars may assume organization — and often for good reasons— when making a restaurant, a market, or something else object of inquiry. However, adopting the presumption of non-organization requires organization studies to make explicit what is understood by organization as well as what findings are mobilized to establish the claim that organization, in the sense subscribed to, is found. Hereby the presumption of non-organization reinforces the empirical stance as ‘a recurrent rebellion against the metaphysicians’ (van Fraassen). Metaphysics is not cancelled out by empirical inquiry, but it may be part and parcel of assumptions that inform empirical inquiry, and the presumption of non-organization calls for a recurrent test of such assumptions.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 12 Oct 2021.
- Formal organization
- Object of inquiry
- Organization studies
- Empirical stance
- Communicative constitution of organization (CCO)