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Practical criticism and the social sciences of management

volume 8, number 4

As we are reminded by the strong programme in the sociology of science, the processes by which ideas come to be counted as knowledge may have little to do with their intrinsic merits. Particularly in the social sciences and more particularly still in those social sciences relating to management, the absence of any analogue to Kuhnian anomaly enables certain favoured texts to circulate within the influence networks of academia, accumulating authority and creating alliances until certain of them achieve quasi-foundational status. Since these are the social mechanics of fashion, there is no more point in asking why the received ideas of an academic network are as they are than there is in asking why that which is in fashion is fashionable. Within this socially constructed reality there is a fusion of power and knowledge which places normative limits on the field of enquiry such that the questioning of certain foundational ideas and texts, even on the basis of empirical findings, is taken to symptomize not an active mind or an interesting piece of research but a failure of understanding (e.g. Sosteric, 1996: 305-6, O’Doherty and Willmott, 2001: 468).