A Step Out from the Middle

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I will make two types of comments. First, I will summarize my thoughts as they relate to the four individual papers. Then, I want to focus on some ideas that these papers stimulated about middle range theory and organizational behavior more generally.

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In this paper an attempt is made to evaluate three answers--normative, coercive and exchange--to the Hobbesian question: how can one establish a society in which force and fraud are not routinely used in satisfying wants? Of the three answers, the normative solution is found to be least acceptable because, unlike the two non-normative explanations, it (1) focuses on the problem of maintaining a system in which the participants have already internalized norms prohibiting the use of force and fraud rather than on explaining how the relevant norms emerged; (2) tends to confound the problem of establishing a relatively well ordered system with the problem of increasing the level of integration of systems in which order already prevails; and (3) seriously underestimates (a) the degree of conflict which may be generated by shared values and (b) the role of norms based on self-interest in the creation and maintenance of social systems.
A dialectical approach to the study of organizations is proposed and contrasted to conventional approaches. Established perspectives fail to deal with the production of organizational arrangements or to analyze the entanglement of theories in those arrangements. The dialectical approach places at the center of analysis the process through which organizational arrangements are produced and maintained. Analysis is guided by four basic principles-social construction, totality, contradiction, and praxis. The organization is seen as a concrete, multileveled phenomenon beset by contradictions which continuously undermine its existing features. Its directions depend upon the interests and ideas of people and upon their power to produce and maintain a social formation.
Starting from the premise that much research on organizations lacks theoretical tension, this article suggests ways to put energy back in the field. The theme of blind spots is developed with illustrations of "blind ing spots," "blind spotting," "blind spots," and "blinding spotting." Implications for investigators and suggestions for improved theorizing are offered.
The full understanding of the behavior of any species must include biology, but at present there is no agreement on how comparisons between our species and others should be made. To a remarkable extent, people believe what they want to believe, as exemplified by the history of the interpretation of the behaviors of the great apes. When comparing human behavior to that of other animals, it is necessary to start with what is known about human beings and then to proceed to comparisons and evolution. Alternative procedures inevitably lead to reductionism and the loss of the very behaviors that make human beings unique. Language (speech and cognition) separates human behavior from that of any other animal and forms the biological base for the social sciences and the singularly human history of the last few thousand years. With the advent of speech, learning takes on wholly new dimensions, and the relation between biology (nature) and learning (nurture) in human beings is quite different from that in any other animal. (58 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Discusses the nature of stipulative statements in social psychological theory, including stipulations about man's nature. The functional-structural model is compared to the conflict model of society. A model of the research process is presented. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)