Hi Denis, Your interpretation sounds correct to me. (Beyond what Hatch describes, I see another, “constructive postmodern position” (1) which draws from both modernism and symbolic interpretivism).
I’m posting your question for our readers, as their perspectives might reveal new useful insights.
Hi Lisa. I’m trying to understand organization as culture. Can you forward to Carman de Voer to explain me these explanations. I am having great difficulty understanding this writing, the language she wrote were too heavy for me. If you understand would be even better.
Hatch (2006), which is given as an additional reading in week 2, has a clear explanation of the three perspectives of organisational theory: modernism; symbolic interpretivism; and post modernism (this last is not examinable). Where modernism assumes that there is an objective, external reality which exists independent of what we know about it, symbolic interpretivism assumes that we cannot know about anything except through our subjective awareness of it. As Hatch 2006, p14) puts it, ‘that which exists is that which we agree exists.’
Under modernism we can discover the truth about our world by measuring and testing from which we can deduce universal laws. The organisation is seen as a concrete separate entity driven by rational goals. The focus of organisational theory from this perspective is around developing universal laws and techniques that can be applied to the structures and processes of organisations to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in the pursuit if rational goals. Through much of the history of organisational theory this approach has dominated so you are probably most comfortable with this approach. It is consistent with the approach taken in the natural sciences such as physics and chemistry.
Under the symbol interpretive approach organisations are seen as arising from the social processes of their members as they interact and develop understandings about their selves and others. That is, organisations are socially constructed. The only way to know about organisations then is to understand the point of view of the individuals involved rather than seek for universal laws. The focus of organisational theory under this perspective is on ‘how people give meaning and order to their experience within specific contexts, through interpretive and symbolic acts, forms and processes’ (Hatch 2006, p14).
To take an example from the model exam on dso, question 6 asks about how we could study organisational culture from a modernist perspective. Modernism would assume that culture was a concrete phenomenon which could be identified, measured and understood using universal laws. Once properly understood it could be manipulated in the same way as structure and processes to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Sutton and Nelson (1990), give an example of this approach in their article when they talk about using cultural artefacts to facilitate change. A symbolic interpretive perspective on culture might look at the processes of interaction and meaning making that result in shared values, beliefs and assumptions with the aim of understanding particular cultures and how they are created and perpetuated.
(1) David Ray Griffin coined the term constructive postmodernism to refer to the view that all perspectives are limited and therefore fail to describe reality in an objective, complete way; however, these perspectives often still yield us some information about our shared reality. Charlene Spretnak terms this position, ecological postmodernism.