Paradigms of Organizations: An Exploration in Textbook Rhetorics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper addresses a‘paradigmatic gap’ between current thinking on the nature of behaviour in organizations and the introductory organization behaviour textbook. It is argued that recent academic discourses, influenced by postmodernism and feminism, present organizations as fragile, unpredictable and discontinuous. However, the traditional organizational behaviour textbook continues to present an image of a solid, ordered and predictable organizational world. Rhetoric theory offers a powerful framework for examining the epistemological, stylistic and discursive assumptions and devices which make written text persuasive. It is used here to explore the persuasive strategies adopted by introductory textbook authors. In particular, it examines the style, content, structure and author—reader relationship of established textbooks. These are then contrasted to the rhetorical formats of the few‘alternative’ text-books, which attempt to bridge the paradigmatic gap. It is concluded that traditional textbooks are unable to portray organizations in line with current thinking because of their inherent assumptions about what a textbook should be and do. The alternative textbooks are faced with the challenge of not only presenting different theories but of developing a radical new rhetoric of the‘textbook’ itself. This is evident in how the authors address the reader, the move away from facts and theories to stories, in celebrating ambiguity, and in their accent on serendipitous learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-399
Number of pages25
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Paradigms of Organizations: An Exploration in Textbook Rhetorics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this