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Title: Human nature and organization theory: On the economic approach to institutional organization
Authors: Wagner-Tsukamoto, Sigmund
First Published: 28-Apr-2003
Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing
Citation: Wagner-Tsukamoto, S, Human nature and organization theory: On the economic approach to institutional organization, 2003, pp. 1-265
Abstract: Human Nature and Organization Theory examines accusations that organizational economics promotes an empirically incorrect and morally questionable image of human nature. Conventional wisdom is that economics is an amoral and dehumanized science because, so it is claimed, of an empirically incorrect and morally questionable image of human nature. Similar accusations have been leveled against organizational economics – which this book focuses on. Accusations are brought forward on psychological, sociological and moral–behavioral grounds, early on so by the human relations school and behavioral economics and more recently by post-modern organization theory, critical management theory, feminine theory or anti-organization theory. The target is ‘economic man’: the ‘rational’, self-interested maximizer of own gain (homo economicus). This book suggests that for assessing the question of human nature in organization theory (and possibly in social science research in general) issues of method and approach have to be clarified first. Here, significant differences can be expected among organizational economics, organization psychology, and organization sociology. Such clarifications appear promising for constructively informing a debate of the image of human nature in organization research, moving it beyond uncritical common sense argumentation and conventional wisdom. The book contends that (organizational) economics applies the model of economic man as a matter of method, but not as an empirical, positive or normative statement about human nature. As later chapters detail, the model of economic man may merely be part of economics’ ‘mind apparatus’, as Keynes hinted, or a ‘heuristic apparatus’ in the more technical language of Lakatos’ and Popper’s philosophy of science. In terms of a simple analogy, the methodical purpose and role of the model of economic man in economics can be compared to the instrumental role of the ‘unrealistic’ crash dummy in the ‘dismal’ accident simulation setting of the car crash test. The book argues that economics’ image of human nature is better deduced from the theoretical and practical outcomes of economic analysis than from the model of economic man as such. Specifically, it has to be examined with what goal in mind organizational economics, equipped with the method ‘economic man’, theoretically analyzes organizational behavior as capital contribution–distribution interactions that are governed by incentive structures. The key thesis is here that the model of economic man enables the generation of socially desirable outcomes, even so when pluralistic interaction contexts are encountered. The book develops its arguments and theses by focusing on three organization theories that set the agenda for much organizational research in the 20th century: the theories of Frederick W. Taylor, Herbert A. Simon, and Oliver E. Williamson. “Wagner-Tsukamoto's book provides an original perspective on the role of human nature in theorizing about organizations. Moreover, it offers a fresh reading of some of the classics of organization theory. Despite the complex issues that are addressed in the book, it is written in clear, nontechnical language. Moreover, it is well structured, and its key theses are easily accessible. Therefore, Human Nature and Organization Theory should be of interest to a broad group of readers who have an interest in organization theory and institutional economics and for those interested in the fields of economics and philosophy. Bringing together these disciplines is a good example of the fruits that interdisciplinary work can bear.” Matthias Meyer, Academy of Management Review. “This is a thorough and scholarly attempt to articulate precisely how human nature has been portrayed in the organizations literature and what this means for research. Wagner- Tsukamoto takes a fresh and constructive approach to this issue, skillfully untangling methodological assumptions about human nature from ontological assumptions, and convincingly disputing Taylor’s, Simon’s and Williamson’s “(self-) criticism” that their models of human nature reflected unrealistic, “morally jaundiced,” and “dehumanized” images of human nature. … Human Nature and Organization Theory is a very satisfying read with a broad appeal that stretches across disciplinary boundaries. ... The enduring controversy about the portrayal of human nature in organizational economics has here benefited from a truly refreshing and insightful treatment.” Denise Dollimore, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.
Series/Report no.: New Horizons in Management series;
DOI Link: 10.4337/9781781951347
ISBN: 9781840647143
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Book
Description: Abstract only
Appears in Collections:Books & Book Chapters, School of Management

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