Volume 2, Issue 1, 2002
Knowing and Deciding
A Better Basis for Management Science
What kind of inquiry is management science? This paper compares two accounts - realist-oriented and constructivist-oriented - and proposes a third position. The realist view that scientific inquiry seeks knowledge of realities independent and outside of the knowing process is set against the constructivist view that scientific theorising creates accounts which develop our discourses without claiming knowledge of 'deeper realities. It argues that ultimately we have no way of resolving this long-standing dispute. To move beyond the impasse it proposes a trusting constructivist position, arguing that responsible theorising requires that inquirers develop discursive accountability and that the process of inquiry matters as much as its content. Finally it explores what such a view of accountability would mean for the relationship between scientists or 'professionals' and users of their research findings in organisations.