Volume 3, Issue 3, 2003
What is Management
René ten Bos, Ruud Kaulingfreks
Organisational Writing and the Lust for Combination
This is a book that we would enthusiastically recommend to those who unconditionally believe in the epistemologically or politically unproblematic character of organisational research. Carl Rhodes, once an employee of the Boston Consulting Group, now researcher at the University of Technology, Sydney, has written a small yet important book about academic writing on organisation. It has appeared in a small but interesting collection called Advances in Organization Studies that is edited by Stewart Clegg and Alfred Kieser and published by John Benjamins.
Rhodes’ book resonates well with developed traditions in narrative and storytelling approaches to management and organisation studies. Such traditions have approached organisational knowledge from a narrative perspective and used narrative and literary methods to understand organisations. More specifically, Rhodes both draws on and contributes to an understanding of the relationship between narrative and power and to using multiple interpretations and representations in research.
However, although we would argue that it is possible to identify Rhodes’ position in the field, ‘summing up’ in his own terms what he has to say is not easy. His central point seems to be that conclusively singular representations, perhaps including the one that we give here, are problematical from both an ethical and political perspective. One may be tempted to discard this as yet another postmodernist frivolity, but we would suggest that what writers and researchers in organisation studies, and the social sciences more generally, might get from this work is an increased sensitivity to the ethics of their writing practices.