Accounting for the formation of scientific fields in organization studies

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Journal Article
European Management Journal, 2019, 37 (1), pp. 18 - 28
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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd There are few qualitative organizational accounts that explore the constitution of scientific fields in management. We developed a methodology for understanding the academic modes of scientific knowledge production in management research from the perspective of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) and actor-network theory (ANT). SSK and ANT offer a way to account for how scientific fields in organization studies are enacted. Key to this process are splitting and inversion of statements; credibility and network formation; and the concepts of credit, trajectory, and position. Specific statements making key knowledge claims (e.g., handbooks, special editions) are situated in academic practices that obscure those rhetorical strategies that enable the production of a network of knowledge that can act, organizationally, as a more or less unified sub-field. We take as a starting point a collection of texts, dated 2011, which sought to systematize the main currents of a disciplinary sub-field during the last decade, focusing on how statements are transformed into scientific certainty and how the question of credibility is established. The sub-field is that of organizational learning (OL). The particular language of OL relies on approaches that make its epistemic assumptions intelligible within a network. It is a language that tends to reify and naturalize specific practices that become accredited as organization learning. The material/textual artifacts that sustain these practices, instead of being reified, can be reframed as enacting a scientific field whose resignification acts upon the network that enabled its existence.
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