Elgar Research Agendas
Edited by Barbara Czarniawska
Chapter 10: Global and comparative studies of organization and management: moving from ‘sameness or difference’ to ‘glocalization and orientation’
Comparative and historical analysis is one of the foundation blocks of organization studies. This form of analysis is rooted in Max Weber’s studies of authority and rationalization, which are differentiated from traditional and charismatic forms of authority. It is also rooted in Weber’s study of the religious foundations of capitalism, in which the Protestant ethic is differentiated from Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and ancient Judaism. These studies, and the comparative method they gave rise to, assume and require an analytic bifurcation of distinct and still equivalent domains. They construct ‘domestic’ as distinct from ‘foreign’, ‘developed’ or ‘West’ as distinct from ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘East’, and, in the language of traditional organization studies, ‘inside’ as distinct from ‘outside’. In this way, this analytic approach and research methodology makes a dual move: it creates space and time demarcations that specify geo-political and epochal categories, while at the same time it bridges across these categorical boundaries by positioning the distinct categories as equivalent and comparable. Moreover, such patterns of sameness or difference among the distinct categories serve as inferences of causality: indeed, comparative and historical analyses that demonstrate patterns of sameness and difference have generated a series of research methods that require variance of data. Yet this traditional paradigm of sameness or difference overstates categorical distinctions, reifies the boundedness of the categories and entities it seeks to explain, and ignores the co-constitutive relations among the presumably negating categories. This ‘sameness or difference’ paradigm fails to acknowledge the definitional dependence among the presumably negating categories, namely, that the development of ‘the West’ depended on the distancing from ‘the rest’ or that the definition of one sector depends on the separation of its features from those of other sectors. In response, I suggest here a more nuanced approach to the domain of global and comparative organization studies; I propose an approach that recognizes the co-constitutive ties among entities and acknowledges that the structuration of each category is a process of referencing and negating. Such a contemporary approach, titled ‘sameness-cum-variation’, offers a novel conceptual grid for global and comparative organization studies and links smoothly with contemporary approaches to the study of the professions and to institutional theory.
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