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Why new theories of organization are unlikely and what to do about it

Hibbert, P. and Sillince, J.A.A. and Diefenbach, T. (2009) Why new theories of organization are unlikely and what to do about it. In: Academy of Management Conference, 2009-08-10 - 2009-08-12. (Unpublished)

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In this paper, we build an approach to the development of new theory that overcomes a number of related and mutually reinforcing problems that collectively suppress generative debate. The problems we are concerned with are intellectual isolation, misleading and self-deceptive rhetoric and ideological closure, all of which arguably hinder the development of novel theory. These problems are exacerbated by their cumulative nature; that is, isolated theory-building communities of practice inevitably become constrained by their rhetorical practices, which in turn results in ideological closure. We offer three connected strategies to address these issues. First, to address intellectual isolation, we suggest a relational, boundary crossing strategy. Second, to avoid being misled by rhetoric, we suggest an interpretive empiricist approach to the development of theory from data. Third, to address ideological closure, we suggest a radically reflexive approach. Taken together, these approaches may stimulate the generation of new advances in organization theory.