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Philosophy of Management

Volume 7, Issue 3, 2009

Green Shoots and Perennials

Miriam Green
Pages 27-42

Analysis of a Text and its Representations
Univocal Truth or a Situation of Undecidability?

This paper is concerned with the representation in academic journal articles and textbooks of an organisation theory. In the case of Burns’ and Stalker’s book The Management of Innovation (1961,1966), summaries of the text by other scholars have arguably differed from the original authors and among themselves in their emphases. Similar points have been made about representations of other theorists such as Kurt Lewin and, perhaps most famously, Adam Smith. They all raise issues about the meanings of texts and where such meanings lie: with the author, the reader, the text itself or perhaps some combination of these. They also raise questions about whether texts can be shown to have definitive meanings; and if not, whether there are any criteria for adjudicating on the validity of varied interpretations. Representations by textbook writers are analysed and questions about the meaning of texts raised by ‘structuralist’ and ‘deconstructionist’ writers examined. Their writings beg certain questions about textual representations. Perhaps the most extreme of these views is Barthes’ concept of the ‘death of the author’. Like Barthes, Derrida argues, for the reasons mentioned above, that there is no underlying, final decipherable meaning in a text, but gives more credence to the role of the author, accepting the validity of the author’s consciousness and intentions as one of the sources of meaning in texts. There are also other sources: the situatedness and historical context of the text and the text itself. Derrida’s concept of ‘différance’ requires the reader to engage in an analysis of the text which offers limitless possibilities for interpretation and a renunciation of the certainty of truth, because the meaning of a text may extend beyond the limits of our knowledge at any one time. His notion of the ‘logic of supplementarity’ is a further means to analyse texts, as it also disprivileges obvious or overt meanings in texts by overturning hierarchy in oppositions and questioning univocal definitions of meaning. Questions inspired by these and other writers give rise to an exploration of who is speaking in the text; which subject matter is represented as central and which as marginal; binary oppositions within the text and intertextual connections. The paper then begins the more ambitious task of answering the broader question as to whether it can be shown that there are more and less ‘representative’ or ‘stronger’ interpretations of a text.

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