Varieties of knowledge and their use in business and management studies: Conditions and institutions

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Many research fields combine practical goals with a search for fundamental mechanisms and make significant contributions to theoretical understanding. This is especially so in the social sciences, which are often concerned with policy issues and problems, albeit with varying degrees of directness. Business and management studies (BMS) may be more focused on practical problem solving than other social sciences, but they are equally capable of contributing major intellectual innovations. They produce a variety of kinds of knowledge that are practically useful in different conditions. At least eight types can be distinguished in terms of their horizontal and vertical isolation, and their identification of causal mechanisms. These can be expected to be more or less effective in producing desired outcomes according to three conditions: contextual independence, stability of internal causal processes, and similarity of circumstances. These conditions in turn are likely to be achieved to varying degrees in different socio-economic systems governed by different institutional arrangements, particularly those that encourage varying degrees of managerial authority sharing and inter-firm coordination of economic activities. Differences in the dominant institutions governing knowledge production and labour markets also affect the kinds of research styles and knowledge types that dominate BMS in different societies. Copyright © 2008 SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-609
Number of pages28
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008


  • Authority sharing
  • Business and management studies
  • Causal mechanisms
  • Contextual independence
  • Horizontal isolation
  • Institutional regimes
  • Internal closure
  • Knowledge types and use
  • Public science systems
  • Vertical isolation


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