The Aston Studies: A Journey Towards a Science of Administration?

Ray Loveridge

in The Oxford Handbook of Management Theorists

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199585762
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management

The Aston Studies: A Journey Towards a Science of Administration?


This article examines the Aston Studies, a series of comparative investigations into the sources of organizational structure carried out over the 1960s and 1970s. They were essentially designed to test the notion that organizational structure must in some way fit its operational context, and that these contingent conditions could be ascertained in a universally determinative fashion. The question of ‘fit’ in the Aston exposition of contingency theory has been challenged at a number of levels. The article suggests that the assumption that statistical correlation offers a performative meaning to a relationship, while of evident heuristic value, has come to be questioned in the ideographic critique of some Aston researchers. In this sense, the Aston mission to establish a science of organizational design has been overtaken by applied research in organizational strategy, often driven by relatively limited measures of realized performance and with little concern for its wider social systemic implications.

Keywords: Aston research; contingency theory; organizational strategy; organizational structure

Article.  10628 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Business History

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