EGOS & OS
in Kyoto
December 13-15, 2019 / Kyoto University

Keynote Speakers

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Carl Rhodes

Professor of Organization Studies and Deputy Dean at UTS Business School

The Poetics of Organization Studies


One of the most ancient fissures in Western thinking concerns the relationship between truth and its representation. After Plato’s rejection of poetic language in favour of the manly rigours of philosophical discourse, debates have raged over what, if anything, constitutes an adequate means through which reality can be discursively reproduced. While such matters have received some attention in organization studies, in a practical sense little has changed from Plato’s original stance. The established orthodoxy insists that the language of scientific realism can and should be deployed if one is to be accepted in the scientific hegemony of the field. This custom, while dominant, is not universal with variations operating along geo-political lines. A key division occurs between the gatekeeping of North American and European academic institutions. The journal Organization Studies is such an institution, being explicitly beholden to a European tradition more welcoming of scholarly and discursive heterodoxy. This presentation will explore the value, values and limitations of this European tradition and what it means for those who write about organizations. Critically, the structure of scriptological differences in organization studies, even when heterodoxy is championed, is located almost entirely in the tradition of Western thought. This is the case, no matter where in the world the thinking is done today. Called for will be a further dismatling of the assumptions that connect language use to truth as related to a meta-theoretical opening up of the writing of organization studies to ways of thinking and writing that are located outside a Platonic genealogy.

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Mollie Painter

Professor at Nottingham Business School, UK

Incalculably human
… why research in organization studies needs the humanities


There is something about human beings that science can’t figure, and measurement can’t manage. Something excessive, undefined, postponed. Though calculated instrumental action is oftentimes needed to make our everyday projects ‘work’, these projects are all embedded in the broader processes of organization. Research into what makes this ‘organization’ work, requires something more… The reason lies is the fact that organization involves human beings; as agents, participants, collaborators, instigators, contributors, disruptors. We will explore what the incalculability of being human entails from a research perspective by drawing on three interrelated issues within organizational implications: natural tendencies towards excess, in all of human, animate and inanimate existence; our need for, but revolt against ‘sense’ and ‘structure’; and our embeddedness in time and space. The interaction between these three dynamics makes human organizations resistant to calculation. In exploring these interactions, we will be drawing on cross-cultural perspectives on the humanities to highlight how different traditions have dealt with the challenges inherent in our most human pursuit – to organize.

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Robert Chia

Research Professor of Management at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow

‘East’ - ‘West’ Metaphysical Differences: Implications for Strategy and Organizational Theorizing



‘…the philosophy of organism (process) seems to approximate more to some strains of Indian, or Chinese thought, than to western Asiatic, or European, thought. One side makes process ultimate; the other side makes fact ultimate’ (A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 1929: 9)

Theories of Strategy and Organization rely on implicit metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality and about how we acquire an adequate knowledge of it to guide our actions. A metaphysics of ‘substance’ treats ‘facts’ out there as pre-existing, objective and ultimate, while a metaphysics of ‘process’ assumes that such facts are practically useful ‘fabrications’ wrought from an ‘aboriginal sensible muchness’ that is ultimate reality, via local coping actions/linguistic practices. The dominant ‘Western’ predisposition derives from the former whilst in the ‘East’ there is traditionally a greater acceptance of the latter. Notwithstanding this, ‘East’ and ‘West’ are better understood and compared in terms of metaphysical differences rather than geographic locations. These metaphysical differences have important consequences for Strategy and Organizational theorizing. Commitment to a metaphysics of substance results in a representationlist epistemology which elevates thinking before action; goals, plans, models and maps are first needed to guide meaningful action. Organization, as such is viewed in deliberate, purposeful, instrumental terms. On the other hand, commitment to a metaphysics of process leads to a suspicion regarding the adequacy of language and symbolic forms of representation. The natural instinct here is to eschew such symbolic abstractions in favour of a local, finely-honed empirical sensitivity and attunement to the solicitations of the immediate sensual environment; a form of ‘radical empiricism’ as the starting point of knowledge. Organizational orders, from this viewpoint, emerge inadvertently through the aggregation of local practical coping actions into established patterns of social practices. These practices are what make society and all the institutions that we find so necessary and familiar, possible. This divergence of theoretical priorities issuing from different metaphysical commitments, have profound ramifications for how strategy and organization are perceived and theorized. In this presentation, I shall explore more widely their consequences for the development and advancement of Organization Studies.