Organizational de-structuring? Latour’s potential contribution to the critical realist – pragmatist dispute

Stephen Kemp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article explores a key difference that Elder-Vass has identified between critical realism and pragmatism: their divergent views on the viability of the concept of social structure. Noting that this is also a point of dispute between critical realists and Actor-Network Theorists, I try to make a contribution to the debate about social structure by focusing on the question of whether organizations are structures, drawing on the views of a pragmatist-leaning ANT – Bruno Latour – to evaluate those of a critical realist – Dave Elder-Vass. I suggest that Latour’s arguments can be used to identify two challenges for Elder-Vass’s approach, questioning both whether an organization has a singular structural form and whether organizations have determinable powers and impacts. I then consider, more briefly, whether Latour’s approach is vulnerable to critical realist arguments that perspectives which deny the existence of social structure cannot account for long-term stabilities, fail to connect different cases, and are individualistic in character.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-330
JournalJournal of Critical Realism
Volume21
Issue number3
Early online date22 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2022

Keywords

  • critical realism
  • Elder-Vass
  • Latour
  • organization
  • pragmatism
  • structure

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