Introduction to the Study
Strategy research has been criticized that its contributions are paradigmatically constrained by positivistic assumptions and research traditions largely stemming from economic analysis.1 Not too surprising, such constraints open a considerable gap between the knowledge accumulated by scholars and managers’ ability to use this knowledge (Gopinath and Hoffman 1995). In his review of strategy research Bettis (1991: 315) notes that he is “struck by the sense that most of this research is irrelevant to what is going on in such firms today.” He concludes that the field of strategic management is prematurely stuck in a ‘normal science straight-jacket’.
KeywordsStrategic Management Strategy Research Normal Science Infinite Regress Dominant Logic
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- 1.See for example the debate in the Strategic Management Journal on the usefulness of applying a constructivist methodology to strategy research (Kwan and Tsang 2001; Mir and Watson 2001, 2000). Another debate in the same journal focuses on the contributions of pragmatist philosophy to a theory of competitive advantage (Durand 2002; Powell 2002).Google Scholar
- 2.The term ‘ideology’ is used in different ways. Marx (1992), who is often considered the “inevitable point of departure for any contemporary discussion of ideology” (Giddens 1979: 165), used the concept politically to express the interests of dominant classes. Our concept of ideology is similar to the one of Mannheim (1936: 36) who states “that ruling groups can in their thinking become so intensively interest-bound to a situation that they are simply no longer able to see certain facts which would undermine their sense of domination.”Google Scholar
- 3.These remarks show that the concept of dominant logic comes close to, but is not equal to, what can be labeled ‘normal science’ in a Kuhnean sense (Broich 1994: 1). Kuhn (1996: 24) himself regards normal science as “[...] research [that] is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the [dominant] paradigm already supplies.” (annotations added) The ideas of dominant logic and normal science share the claim that doubts about favored assumptions and research procedures are suspended (see also the discussion by Willmott 1993: 686). Both concepts are different in that normal science, as we understand the term, “means research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation of its further practice” (Kuhn 1996: 10), while dominant logics are less about the model-role of scientific achievements but look at the assumptions that are attached to these achievements.Google Scholar
- 4.See for instance the textbook by de Wit and Meyer (2004) as well as the treatises by Freeman and Lorange (1985), Ketchen et al. (1996), Moore (1995), and Vos (2002).Google Scholar
- 5.As a prominent example one can refer to the ‘Mintzberg-Ansoff-controversy’ held in the Strategic Management Journal between 1990 and 1991 (Ansoff 1991; Mintzberg 1990a; Mintzberg 1991).Google Scholar
- 6.Strictly speaking, resource-based reasoning also offers strategic rules. Barney (1991), for example, tells us that a resource’s potential depends on its value, rareness, and non-substitutability.Google Scholar
- 8.Recently published critiques of strategy research as a field of study include: Sarason and Huff (2005), Pozzebon (2004), Clegg et al. (2004), McKiernan and Carter (2004), Knights and Mueller (2004), Levy et al. (2003), Farjoun (2002), Ortmann and Salzman (2002), Sydow and Ortmann (2001), Hoskisson et al. (1999), Franklin (1998b, 1998a), and Calori (1998).Google Scholar
- 9.This is not to say that we ignore the work of Luhmann and Giddens form here on but that we discuss their ideas on the background of Derrida’s philosophy. Proceeding in this way is feasible since Giddens (1979: 9–48) extensively refers to Derrida’s work and Luhmann (1995a: 9–35) at least recognizes the importance of his thinking. To neglect ideas like the paradox of decision-making (Luhmann 2000) or the importance of agency in (re)constituting rules and resources (Giddens 1984) for the sake of sticking to one theory only, surely is not an appropriate way for scientific progress.Google Scholar
- 10.Research methods that are consistent with the assumptions of deconstruction aim at qualitative empirical studies. Exploring organizations via narrative analysis provides a valuable point of departure in this context (Calás and Smircich 1999; Clandinin and Conelly 2000; Czarniawska 1998).Google Scholar
- 11.Incommensurability does not dissolve scientific legitimization into taste preferences (Jones 2003: 510) as this would lead to the impossibility of serious scientific practice. Scientific argumentation in the light of incommensurability implies a local understanding of rationality — ‘to play by the rules’ favored by a particular community of scholars. Accordingly, Latour (2002) argues that’ scientific facts’ are not given but constructed by a network of actors (also Astley 1985; Astley 1984; Cannella and Paetzold 1994).Google Scholar
- 12.Speaking with Weick (1989: 522–523), we contribute to heterogeneity in ‘thought trials’ within strategic management theory by choosing an uncommon perspective for criticizing existing research. Elsewhere Weick (1987b: 99) states that “[t]heories should be adopted more to maximize what we will see than summarize what we have already seen. Usually, what we have already seen merely confirms what we expect to see. To theorize better, theorists have to expect more in whatever they will observe.”Google Scholar