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Positioning qualitative research as resistance to the institutionalization of the academic labour process

Symon, Gillian and Buehring, Anna and Johnson, Phil and Cassell, Catherine (2008) Positioning qualitative research as resistance to the institutionalization of the academic labour process. Organization studies, 29 (10). pp. 1315-1336. ISSN 0170-8406

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Abstract

The focus of this paper is on the ‘institutional work’ (Lawrence and Suddaby 2006) of disrupting institutions, examining the rhetorical strategies employed to construct and justify meanings and interpretations. This work is explored in the context of the contemporary academic labour process; specifically, research approaches within the management discipline. A total of 45 individuals involved in funding, conducting, publishing and using qualitative management research were interviewed. From our analysis of their arguments, we focus specifically on the discursive positioning of quantitative research as illegitimate institutionalization of academic working practices and of qualitative research as legitimate resistance to this institutionalization. We identify a number of rhetorical strategies which construct and justify these discursive positions including: the undermining of success criteria; the legitimizing of interests (through claims of institutionalized discrimination) and actors (through identity claims); attributions of political action (including the construction of counter-institutions); claims to agency; and the invocation of alternative institutional logics. We argue that examining institutional work as rhetoric adds to our theoretical understanding of the discursive disruption of institutions, particularly with respect to the manipulation of contradictory meanings and the functions of agency–structure discourse; and contributes a political dimension to our understanding of the qualitative–quantitative ‘divide’ within management research.

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