Penrose, critical realism and the evolution of business knowledge: a methodological reappraisal

Clark, Peter and Blundel, Richard (2007). Penrose, critical realism and the evolution of business knowledge: a methodological reappraisal. Management & Organizational History, 2(1) pp. 45–62.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1744935907076350

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1744935...

Abstract

This article examines the challenge of modifying orthodox ‘case study’ approaches to the growth of firms and inter-organizational networks in the light of recent work on the evolution of business knowledge. We suggest that a modified Penrosian framework, combined with a qualified application of critical realist practices, could contribute to more coherent and insightful theorizing in this area. We begin with a critique of Edith Penrose’s legacy, including her efforts to initiate a historically informed tradition of social scientific research on the growth of the firm. We go on to consider the explanatory potential of critical realism, when adopted as a methodological adjunct to neo-Penrosian theorizing. Our main proposition is illustrated through a superfactual reinterpretation of certain aspects of the historical case study of the Rover Company (1896-1982) conducted by Richard Whipp and Peter Clark (1986).

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