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Edited by Russell Sandberg, Norman Doe, Bronach Kane and Caroline Roberts
This chapter identifies current post-factual politics as a result of the way references to emotions have been placed outside truth production in modern science and politics. As such, they have created a powerful binary of factual knowledge and emotions, which dominates the public discourse on truth. The frequent assertion that we find ourselves in post-factual times implies that at some point in the past there was a time when truth could easily be distinguished from a lie, and a time when it was clear that governing institutions held the truth. This chapter challenges such a view by citing the historical example of the Viennese obstetrician Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, who made himself unpopular in his day because of his discovery of the origins of childbed fever. While Semmelweis has been often portrayed as a tragic hero who could not achieve his aim because he was ‘too emotional’, viewing this historical anecdote in light of the development of the modern notion of truth as a fact-based and unemotional knowledge enables us to problematize further how truth breaks with accepted path-dependencies and institutional responsibilities and how it becomes negotiated. This paradoxical character of truth – as solid knowledge, while being revolutionary – calls for a subtler analysis of truth’s scenography.
Keith Townsend, Aoife M. McDermott, Kenneth Cafferkey and Tony Dundon
It is perhaps easier to explain what theory is not rather than what it is. Theory is not facts or data. Nor is theory a hypothesis, or a case study. It is not a literature review. A theory is a set of general principles or ideas that are meant to explain how something works, and is independent of what it intends to explain. The purpose of a theory (or set of theories) is to help explain what causes something to occur, or to inform us of the likely consequences of a phenomenon. In so doing, theories can be more or less abstract, and be pitched at different levels - explaining society, processes, relations, behaviour and perceptions. For practitioners, theories can enhance understanding and inform decision-making. For researchers, theories shape the framing of their data, and are often presented as an essential part of any well-designed research project. Reflecting this, Hambrick (2007: 1346) argues that theory is essential for a field to flourish and advance. Indeed, many management journals require scholars to make a ‘theoretical contribution’ to get published, prompting something of an obsession with a theory-driven approach in management-related areas. Thus, while recognizing the value and importance of theory, we offer a cautionary note. Specifically, we suggest that it may be fruitful for a field to support initial consideration of phenomena-driven trends or patterns before becoming fixated on having a theoretical explanation. For example, that smoking can cause harm and ill health in humans does not need a theory to prove its validity (Hambrick, 2007). Reflecting this, in disciplines such as sociology, economics and finance there has been less of an ‘essential need’ to publish with some new theoretical development in mind. Instead, ideas, logics, concepts, premises are given due attention and the notion of exploring data is seen as valid and valuable in deciding if certain issues or phenomena are in themselves evident or emergent. Where this is the case, theory can then help to understand and explain such issues. Theory is therefore a crucial lens on the world, one that provides value in addressing both evident and emergent issues. Notwithstanding that empirics and theory both contribute value and vibrancy to a field, our focus here is on the role of theory, and some of the specific theories used in employment relations (ER) and human resource management (HRM) research.