Organization Theory as a Positive Science

Lex Donaldson

in The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780199275250
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management

 Organization Theory as a Positive Science

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  • Business and Management
  • Organizational Theory and Behaviour
  • Research Methods


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Positive science applied to organizations seeks to build a body of knowledge that consists of general causal theories about organizations and their members. These theories are empirically validated through scientific methods. These theories are positive in that they explain how the world works, rather than being normative, that is, prescribing what ought to occur. In positivist organizational science, organizations are explained as being driven by the environment. Organizational science has made considerable progress to date through using the positivist approach. To the degree that organizational portfolio theory is corroborated in future research, it may shed light beyond that presently available from traditional, non-positivist analyses of organizational change. It could eventually help take practice beyond the more customary, ideationalist approach, of trying to change organizations by seeking ‘to change managerial thinking’.

Keywords: positive science; scientific methods; organizational science; organizational portfolio theory; ideationalist approach

Article.  9961 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour ; Research Methods

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