The Bounds of rationality: Power/History/Imagination

S.R. Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The paper takes the assumptions of bounded rationality as the premise for organization theorizing. It draws a distinction between a science of objects and a science of subjects, arguing the latter as the more appropriate frame for organization analysis. Organization studies, it suggests, are an example of the type of knowledge that flyvbjerg, following aristotle, terms ‘phronesis’. At the core of phronetic organization studies, the paper argues, there stands a concern with power, history and imagination. The core of the paper discusses power and the politics of organizing, to point up some central differences in approach to the key term in the trinity that the paper invokes. The paper concludes that organization theory and analysis is best cultivated not in an ideal world of paradigm consensus or domination but in a world of discursive plurality, where obstinate differences in domain assumptions are explicit and explicitly tolerated. A good conversation assumes engagement with alternate points of view, argued against vigorously, but ultimately, where these positions pass the criteria of reason rather than prejudice, tolerated as legitimate points of view. In so doing, it elaborates and defends criteria of reason.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-863
JournalCritical perspectives on Accounting
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

Cite this