Administrative science as socially constructed truth

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Citation: W. Graham Astley (1985) Administrative science as socially constructed truth. Administrative Science Quarterly (RSS)

doi: 10.2307/2392694


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Summary:

Astley's article argues that administrative science constitutes a socially constructed product. All ideas are constituted from researchers' prior philosophical assumptions and ideological commitment -- all subjective judgments. Essentially, theories end up shaping both the questions that administrative scientists ask and the types of understandings they infer from their data. Similarly, theories and ideas are interpreted by an audience of administrative scholars based on their own assumptions and commitments.

Astley suggests that "truth" in the field of administrative science is always defined in terms of theoretical constructs -- wrought through language -- that end of guiding, framing, and constraining research. Indeed, the chief product of research is language itself, as opposed to "truths." As such, it is best understood as a socially constituted product. Astley suggests that is through social a set of institutional definitions that new theories are are given the stamp of authenticity or truth.

For example, Astley suggests that theories are evaluated in terms of their ambiguity. Indeed, he argues that the more ambiguous a theory is, the more general it will be and the more people will be able to use the material in their space. Similarly, new theories can not be completely de novo and should build off existing work as a way of showing deference to existing gatekeepers of top journals.