Paradox and Dialectics: What can we learn from combining these perspectives?


[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

Managing organizational contradictions is an increasingly popular topic for both academics and practitioners. The work world is filled with contradictory tensions such as autonomy vs control, where managerial responses must respect the opposing elements (e.g. autonomy and control) rather than focus on one at the expense of the other. In Integrating Dialectical and Paradox Perspectives on Managing Contradictions in Organizations authors Timothy Hargrave and Andrew Van de Ven take the view that paradox and dialectics provide different yet equally and simultaneously valid lenses for understanding such organizational contradictions. Drawing on both perspectives, they develop a theoretically grounded process model to: (1) focus on the management of organizational contradictions within a broader social context, (2) depict managers as both accepting of and resisting the contradictory elements, (3) identify two managerial approaches – assimilation and mutual adjustment, and (4) explain how tensions between contradictory elements can be both reproduced and transformed.

I particularly recommend this article because Hargrave & Van de Ven not only provide a thoughtful and helpful comparison of the paradox, dialectical and integrated approaches, but they also develop a series of provocative implications for paradox and dialectics researchers. As the authors note, their integrated model holds excellent potential for much needed attention to conflict, power, politics, institutions and the unintended consequences that impact managerial strategies regarding organizational contradictions. If you are interested in paradox or dialectics, this is really a ‘must read’ article!

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About Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.