Pragmatism and Organization Studies

ISBN : 9780198753216

Philippe Lorino
352 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2018
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Winner of the 2019 EGOS Book Award 
EURAM 2019 Best Book of the Year Award finalist​

  • Translates pragmatist ideas into organizational issues showing its specific relevance to analyzing organizations
  • Provides systematic illustration of concepts with concrete case studies
  • Highlights key concepts focusing on one key theme in each chapter

Many streams of research in organization and management have criticized the mainstream view of organizations as decision-making and information-processing structures, controlled through rational representations (substantive or procedural rationality). 
In spite of their differences, these streams of research share some key theoretical principles: Their processual view of organizing as 'becoming', their emphasis on the key role of action and action meaning; their interest in the agential power of artefacts and objects; the exploratory and inquiring nature of organizing.
This book argues that Pragmatist thought can contribute to those approaches offering some theoretical argument, both as a general intellectual orientation and as a conceptual toolbox. As a general attitude, Pragmatism develops a radical critique of all the dualisms which often hinder organization studies: Thought and action, design and utilization, decision and execution, reality and representation, to name a few. As a conceptual toolbox, Pragmatism can contribute and clarify key concepts for organization and management studies, such as inquiry, semiotic mediation, habit, abduction, trans-action, and valuation.
However, Pragmatist thought is still little known by organization and management scholars and by reflexive managers. The proposed book aims at making pragmatist key notions accessible to them and applicable to theorize organizations and transform managerial practices.


1: Historical Perspective: The Pragmatist Adventure, from Anti-Cartesianism to Anti-Taylorism
2: Semiotic Mediation at the Heart of Organizing: Questioning the Representation/Reality Dichotomy
3: Habits: The Actional View of Organizations
4: Inquiry: The Process of Thinking, Acting, and Mediating
5: Transaction: Beyond the Individual /Collective Dualism, the Dialogical Approach to Sociality
6: Community of Inquiry: Transactional Inquiry and Common Concern
7: Abduction
8: Value and Valuation
9: Pragmatism, a Process Perspective on Organizations
10: The Pragmatist Influence on Managerial Ideas and Practices: The Strange History of Lean Management
Postface: A few lines of temporary, exploratory, and practical conclusion

About the author: 

Philippe Lorino is Distinguished Professor of Management Control and Organization Theory at ESSEC Business School (Paris) and an adviser to the French Nuclear Safety Authority. He has previously served as a senior civil servant in the French Government, in charge of industrial policies, and as a director in the finance department of an international computer company, in charge of designing new cost and performance management systems. He draws from pragmatist authors (philosophy, semiotics and social science) to study organizations as continuous processes of organizing, more precisely collective inquiries aimed at understanding and transforming collective activity, mediated by management techniques and tools.

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