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SAGE Publications
Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas in Qualitative Research / Edition 2

Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas in Qualitative Research / Edition 2

by Mats Alvesson


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Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas in Qualitative Research / Edition 2

In it's first edition Reflexive Methodology established itself as a groundbreaking success, providing researchers with an invaluable guide to a central problem in research methodology - how to put field research and interpretations in perspective, paying attention to the interpretive, political and rhetorical nature of empirical research.

Now thoroughly updated, this second edition includes a new chapter on positivism, social constructionism and critical realism, and offers new conclusions on the applications of methodology. It provides further illustrations and updates that build on the acclaimed and successful first edition.

Reflexivity is an essential part of the research process. In this book, Alvesson and Sköldberg make explicit the links between techniques used in empirical research and different research traditions, giving a theoretically informed approach to qualitative research. They provide balanced reviews and critiques of the major schools of grounded theory, ethnography, hermeneutics, critical theory, postmodernism and poststructuralism, discourse analysis, genealogy, and feminism.

This book points the way to a more open-minded, creative interaction between theoretical frameworks and empirical research. It continues to be essential reading for students and researchers across the social sciences.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2901848601122
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Publication date: 10/02/2009
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 350
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Mats Alvesson holds a chair in the Business Administration department at Lund University in Sweden and is also part-time professor at University of Queensland Business School. He has done extensive research and published widely in the areas of qualitative and reflexive methodology, critical theory, organizational culture, knowledge work, identity in organizations, gender, organizational change, management consultancy etc. He has published 20 books with leading publishers and hundreds of articles, many of which are widely cited and used on higher levels in university education.

Kaj Sköldberg is Professor emeritus in Business Administration at the School of Business, University of Stockholm, Sweden. Research interests include the philosophy of science, social power, social identities, organization science, management science, complexity science, and the poetics of organizations. Published books include The Poetic Logic of Administration. Styles and Changes of Style in the Art of Organizing (2002), Tracks and Frames. The Economy of Symbolic Forms in Organizations (2002), and Maktens många ansikten (2014).

Table of Contents

Foreword x

1 Introduction: the intellectualization of method 1

Ways of explanation and understanding 3

Qualitative and quantitative method 7

Reflective/reflexive research 8

Four elements in reflective research 11

Layout of the book 13

Notes 14

2 (Post-)positivism, social constructionism, critical realism: three reference points in the philosophy of science 15

Positivism and beyond 16

Critics of positivism 17

Theory vs empirical 'facts': verification, falsification, and beyond 20

Social constructionism 23

Berger and Luckmann: reality as a social construction 24

Gergen-a persistent critic of positivism 30

Latour and ANT: the 'second wave' of social constructionism 31

The variation of social constructionism 33

Critique of social constructionism 35

Critical realism 39

Overview 39

Critique 44

Brief comparison 49

Final words 50

Notes 51

3 Data-oriented methods: empiricist techniques and procedures 53

Grounded theory 53

Roots 53

Theory generation, induction, qualitative data 56

The theory criterion: practical utility 59

Data and sources of data 60

Coding: from data to categories 62

Theoretical sampling 67

From categories to theory 68

Substantive and formal grounded theory 69

Conclusion 71

Schism 74

Epilogue 75

Ethnomethodology 76

Roots: phenomenology 76

Ethnomethodological research 78

Conversation analysis 82

A critique 82

Inductive ethnography 83

Summary 87

Notes 88

4 Hermeneutics: interpretation and insight 91

Roots 92

Objectivist hermeneutics 94

Alethic hermeneutics 95

Hermeneutical interpretation - a reconstruction 97

Pattern of interpretation 99


Dialogue 100

Sub-interpretation 102

Betti's hermeneutic canons 105

Canon 1 The hermeneutic autonomy of the object 105

Canon 2 The coherence of meaning (the principle of totality) 105

Canon 3 The actuality of understanding 106

Canon 4 The hermeneutic correspondence of meaning (adequacy of meaning in understanding) 107

Application: historiographic method (source criticism) 107

Remnants and narrating sources 109

Authenticity 110

Bias 111

Distance and dependence 112

Empathy 114

Source criticism: final words 115

Existential hermeneutics: back to basics 116

Being-in-the-world 116

The structure of care 117

Understanding 119

The fusion of horizons 120

Knocking at the text 122

The hidden basic question of the text 122

Poetic hermeneutics 123

Metaphors 124

Narrative 127

The hermeneutics of suspicion 129

Geertz's hermeneutic ethnography 130

Integration 133

Critique 135

Notes 140

5 Critical theory: the political and ideological dimension 144

On the critical theory of the Frankfurt school 145

Origins and early development 145

Cultural pessimism and the critique of rationality 146

Critically constructive variants of critical theory 147

Habermas 148

Technocracy and the colonization of the lifeworld 148

Habermas's theory of communicative action 150

Critique of Habermas's theory of communication 153

Cognitive interest and epistemology 155

Comparison between Habermas and early critical theory 157

Critical theory and various political positions 159

Critical theory in relation to positions on the left and right 159

A minimal version of critical research 160

Methodological implications 162

Critical theory and empirical research 162

The research question 162

The role of empirical material 164

The importance of theoretical frames of reference 166

Interpretations 167

Negations 169

Critical ethnography and other forms of critical qualitative research 170

An illustration: study of a workplace 173

Summary: critical theory as triple hermeneutics 174

Notes 177

6 Poststructuralism and postmodernism: destabilizing subject and text 179

Variants of poststructuralism and postmodernism 181

Derrida and deconstruction 184

Deconstruction 185

Différance and the metaphysics of presence 186

Freedom from references 188

The play with signs and the market 189

The downfall of the grand narratives 191

Criticism of the (humanistic) subject 194

The researcher as author 198

Empirical illustration 202

Critique of postmodernism and poststructuralism 204

Lack of constructivity 205

Linguistic and textual reductionism 206

The Sokal affair 210

Final comment on the critique 211

Implications for qualitative method 212

Pluralism 213

A well-grounded process of exclusion 216

Cautious processes of interacting with empirical material 217

Avoiding totalizing theory 218

Authorship and linguistic sensitivity 219

Research and the micropolitics of the text 221

Summary of pragmatic postmodern methodological principles 221

Final word 222

Notes 224

7 Language/gender/power: discourse analysis, feminism and genealogy 227

Discourse analysis 229

Criticism of traditional views of language in research 229

Discourse-analytical research 232

Critique and evaluation of discourse analysis 234

Feminism 236

The gender-as-variable approach 238

Research from a feminist standpoint 239

Poststructural feminism 240

Feminism and method 242

Critical discussion of feminism 245

Discussion of gender in non-feminist research 247

Genealogical method: Foucault 250

Power and knowledge 251

Some methodological principles 254

The self and the ethics 255

Critical views 256

Some general implications for method 258

Final words 260

Notes 261

8 On reflexive interpretation: the play of interpretive levels 263

The four orientations in slightly ironical terms 263

Methodological strategies - resignation and linguistic reductionism 265

On reflection 269

Reflexive interpretation 271

Breadth and variation in interpretation 271

On creativity and extensive reading 274

On the role of metatheory 276

Considering various directions and reversals 278

Notes 280

9 Applications of reflexive methodology: strategies, criteria, varieties 283

Methodological strategies in reflexive interpretation 283

Illustrations of a reflexive interpretation 285

Empirical example one: an advertising guru talks 285

Interpretations 286

Empirical illustration two: changes in public sector organizations 293

Final comment on the two examples 299

A note on the criteria for qualitative research 300

Some recent views 300

Empirical material as argument 303

Criteria for empirical research 304

Richness in points 305

Reflexive interpretation and relativism 307

Metaphors for research 309

Two kinds of emphasis in reflexive research 312

Some concrete suggestions 314

Final comment: research as a provisionally rational project 316

Notes 318

References 320

Index 342

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