A Daoist epistemology for understanding an alternative origin of organizing

Dai, Wenjin (2018). A Daoist epistemology for understanding an alternative origin of organizing. In: Peltonen, Tuomo; Gaggiotti, Hugo and Case, Peter eds. Origins of Organizing. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, pp. 114–128.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4337/9781785368752.00013


According to Dai, Classical Chinese philosophy and, in particular, Daoism can act as a source to enable scholars of management and organization studies (MOS) to develop an alternative origin of organizing and organizational theorizing that differs significantly from the mainstream. In her pursuit of this argument, Dai traces the historical emergence of constructions of an East/West divide, pointing out that differences originating in physical geography are now transcended by those of worldview. There are broad tendencies in the MOS literature to both simplify differences between East and West and to romanticize Chinese thought. As Dai poetically puts it, ‘a splash of “Daoism” or a pinch of “Confucianism” adds oomph and an enticing “oriental” flavour’. She is highly critical of Hofstede-style studies that caricature ‘Chinese values’ and also finds fault in what she sees as Robert Chia’s essentialist rendering of Chinese thought. Drawing inspiration from the work of the Chinese classics scholar, Francois Jullien, she argues that interested MOS scholars would do well to develop closer readings of the philosophical positions represented in Confucian and Daoist literatures.

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