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Part II Theoretical Characteristics of Keiei Jinruigaku

Chapter 4 The Meaning of an Anthropological Approach for Management Studies: Beyond “Clinical” and “Scientific” Knowledge

Izumi Mitsui

Abstract The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the meaning of an anthropological approach with a focus on methodological study for management theory (including the theory of business administration). We begin with a brief overview of the history of management theory and then focus on two methodologies based on “scientific” and “clinical” knowledge. The difference between scientific and clinical knowledge is that the first is theoretical knowledge comprised of verifiable and reproducible propositions, but the second is knowledge of theory as both conceptual schemes and their application in practice. These methodologies have conflicting viewpoints; however, they coexist in the practical business field, and this is the methodological uniqueness of management theory. Both theories interact in the practical field of management, and they cannot be separated. Therefore, we have to provide a new methodological standpoint that includes both clinical and scientific knowledge. We discuss the capability of an anthropological approach for creating new methodologies in business administration.

4.1 Introduction

Management theory is generally described as a “pragmatic science” based on the philosophical standpoint of pragmatism. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the importance of an anthropological approach for management theory as a pragmatic science.

Initially, we briefly define management as the process of a plan-do-check-act (management process) to attain certain goals or to solve particular problems using a corporate system such as a company or an enterprise. The purpose of management theory, as a pragmatic science, is to provide useful analytical frameworks for solving problems.

A methodological characteristic of management theory is that it is not only seeking for a logical consistency or universal validity, but also practical management problem solving. Therefore, a great variety of management theories or conceptual schemes have been developed in practical management fields and/or business schools. As a result, management theory has been described as lacking solid methodology and it is in the “theoretical jungle.”

However, two methodologies have been identified in the history of management theory: the “clinical” and “scientific” methods. The first is an inductive approach for making theoretical frameworks to analyze concrete situations and solve a certain problem. The true–false test of a “theory” depends on its effectiveness in solving certain problems. The second method uses a deductive approach. In this approach, theories are produced deductively from an existing theory based on preexisting factual “truth” or “essence.” In this approach, the research goal is to find or clarify the “truth” of facts using the theory.

In the 1930s, some members, including E. Mayo and F. Roethlisberger, of L. Henderson's academic group at Harvard University formed a school known as the “Human Relations School.” In addition, C. Barnard, who was the representative organization and management theorist in the 1930s, strongly influenced the clinical method of Henderson's group.

The prophet of the scientific method in management theory is H. Simon, who was a Nobel laureate in economics in 1978. In his book, Administrative Behavior (original 1947), Simon researched administrative behavior from the perspective of decision-making processes. In addition, he described this behavior in a scientific manner, based on only factual propositions except valuable ones. Simon said that his scientific methodology was influenced by R. Carnap's “logical positivism.” Simon's method was developed successfully by the scientific community of organization and management research.

These two headstreams in the methodological foundation of management theory have been flowing separately at some times and flowing together at other times in historical situations, and they have shaped management theory into a “practical science.” In the next section, we will show Barnard's observational standpoint for management research to clarify our discrimination of the two methodologies described above. [1]

  • [1] The following two sections are rewriting arguments of Mitsui (2001a, b).
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