Understanding business as expert knowledge

February 20, 2009

The January issue of Organization has published a special issue on science studies-inspired research on organization theory, marketing and strategy. The issue, titled “Does STS Mean Business?” and based on a workshop with the same name, reads like an authentic roadmap for future organizational research.

The initiative, which sprang from the STS group at Oxford’s Said Business School — the only one of this kind in any leading business school– is in many ways parallel to the development of the social studies of finance: take the core tenets of science studies/ actor-network theory, and offer a novel look at the capital markets.

But what exactly are those advantages and novelties? The issue was debated in this blog by Elena Simakova and Catelijne Coopmans… the “mutant science scholars.” In the leading article, Woolgar, Coopmans and Neyland add to that debate by suggesting that a science and technology perspective offers the following:

(1) A propensity to cause trouble, provoke, be awkward; (2) a tendency to work through difficult conceptual issues in relation to specific empirical cases, deflating grandiose theoretical concepts and claims (and even some ordinary ones); (3) an emphasis on the local, specific and contingent in relation to the genesis and use of science and technology; (4) caution about the unrefl exive adoption and deployment of standard social science lexicons (e.g. power, culture, meaning, value); (5) reflexive attention to the (frequently unexplicated) notions of our audiences, value and utility.

I particularly liked number two — “deflating grandiose concepts”.

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