Re: Postmodernism -- switching epistemes... LO165

Mariann Jelinek (
Sat, 18 Feb 1995 17:34:12 -0500

Michael McMaster addressed meta-naratives of business/management & wrote
in LO141:


>Another example is that things "are" hierarchical. That order is provided
>by hierarchy and (here's where the circularity of dialogue occurs) that
>control can only be exercised if a heirarchy is present. This view of
>things has us see hierarchy in every functioning system not because it's
>"there" but because its "here" in the way that we look at things.
>Less deep, but similarly damaging to the cause of learning are vision,
>motivation and commitment. There may be gold in each of these ideas, but
>the source of their meaning and their resulting application come from
>unchallenged assumptions about human beings and their relationships to
>things that come from the cosmology or world view of cause & effect,
>reductionism and mechanistic relationships and lead to our current
>organisational forms and, worse, our management practices in dealing with
>the human beings in our organisations.

I think you're right about some of this, AND I'd like to hear more
about where you go: I worry that whether we praise or blame "management,"
assume it's totally omnicient or that it's totally corrupt, we
oversimplify. The hierarchical assumptions are, I think, a clear case of
old ideas applied perhaps too long: especially given current available
information sharing technologies, hierarchy assumptions seem obsolete
(they are, I think, that only those on top can or should know, and because
they know, make decisions for all the others - who are assumed not to have
relevant thoughts or ideas or reactions). Those assumptions are clearly
inappropriate when anybody can call up information via a network like this
one, and especially if trained to examine and interpret it (again, much
easier to support now than say 100 years ago), can make reasonable
decisions on the basis of the information. This is the essence of
"empowering" notions, it seems to me.
Where I'd like to hear more is why you think commitment, vision,
etc. are detrimental to learning. How come? Can't a shared vision of where
we'd like to go (toward a learning organization, for instance) help? Can't
commitment to a philosophy of learning assist people in selecting
appropriate reactions? Say some more, please!


Mariann Jelinek
Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business
Graduate School of Business,
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23185

Tel. (804) 221-2882 FAX: (804) 229-6135