Resignifying economic and administrative praxis: new conceptual elements for an alternative discourse

conceptual basis

What neurological principles could help to better explain economic decisions made by individuals on a daily basis? What general aspects underlie the managerial discourse of profit-making productive organizations? How much does the so-called net worth equation really reflect equality and order? All of these are questions addressed by the GEMA research group, which have led to insistence on the need to undertake a resignification of the discourse and practice of economic science and management disciplines, in light of what has been viewed as an ontological and epistemological shift.

The conceptualization underlying the above-mentioned shift has been set forth in the book entitled Bases conceptuales para un análisis crítico del discurso administrativo y económico (Conceptual Bases for a Critical Analysis of Administrative and Economic Discourse) published by the Fondo Editorial de la Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia. Throughout this work, a hermeneutic exercise in transformative translation is made that is expressed in a position that takes issue with the economic dogma represented in “classic” doctrinaire liberalism.

The book therefore consists of three interdependent essays: 1) “Reflexión sobre el concepto de racionalidad económica y la noción del homo oeconomicus” (Reflections on the Concept of Economic Rationality and the Notion of Homo Oeconomicus,) 2) “Reinterpretando el discurso de la productividad en las organizaciones empresariales” (Reinterpreting the Discourse of Productivity in Business Organizations) and 3) “La realidad vista en clave entrópica: una aproximación al concepto de entropía en el campo económico, administrativo y contable” (Reality Viewed in an Entropic Key: an Approach to the Concept of Entropy in the Economic, Administrative and Accounting Field). The three essays aim to show the epistemological meaningless stemming from continued insistence on understanding the fundamental principles of the scientific disciplines from a mechanical and reductionist episteme.

The central criticism is that the Social Sciences —particularly Economics and Business Administration—, in appropriating systems of reasoning that belong to the hard sciences, have lost sight of the importance of their fundamental questions.

This is shown to be problematic at various levels. In the first place, the fact that social studies are in and of themselves socially conditioned activities makes it difficult to shield them with an objectivity similar to that of the Natural Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology…). Undoubtedly, this intentionality has been an incentive for a naïve attitude that has led these disciplines of knowledge to overrate the characteristics of human beings as social and economic agents. On this subject, the first chapter of the book shows that the notion of economic rationality that is assumed under the archetype of the clearly maximizing homo oeconomicus is far from being a biological reality.

The traditional epistemological posture also leads to a time-based economic pragmatism. The emphasis on making use of time as an objective in life and as a means of production derives from the modern ascetic and frugal morality, which at the same time transcends the principles of scientific administration and mechanical bureaucracy. In this aspect, the criticism aims to affirm that, in the current state of postindustrial financial capitalism, administrative management concentrated on the time variable intensifies the differences represented in the capital/work dialectic, while at the same time causing serious operative inefficiencies. The proposal therefore aims at a resignification of corporate strategy, understanding it as an essential factor to facilitate coordinated action by the different social groups with interests in the organization —customarily called stakeholders—. Only under this perspective is it possible to guide managerial praxis in concordance with a meaningful and thoughtful discourse to equate the symbolic capitals and balance the capital/work relationship; in other words, a discourse constructed in accordance with a social signification of the organization.

The third epistemological limitation that was identified stems from the way in which Economic Science and management disciplines have created their notion of reality and how their intervention tools have been developed based upon it. The traditional posture has represented order and reality from a nomological and evolutionary scheme, through which the organization is viewed as an individual phenomenon. Understanding the implications of this, the complexity of the processes of eco/self-organization have been assimilated according to the second law of thermodynamics. Based on the conditions that mark the entropic phenomenon, the principles that underlie the equality reflected in the accounting construct of the network equation are questioned, along with the dynamics of growth promoted by capitalist consumerism as well as the management tools that are supported in linear models of stimulus – response.

We of course recognize that the topic is far from being exhausted in this book. However, we do believe that it we have been able to propose a solidly structured conceptual rationale, based upon which we —the GEMA research group— feel that it is possible to understand the ontological and epistemological shift that is required in the Economic and Management sciences. This brief space for dissemination can therefore only conclude by issuing an open invitation to all researchers, professors, administrators and students to accompany us in reformulating our disciplinary fields. Those who accept this invitation will always find in our group an open opportunity for dialogue and debate, as well as an unbreakable willingness to work on behalf of an ever more humanistic science.

Eduardo Andrés Botero

He holds a master’s degree in Economic and Financial Administration from the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira (UTP), Colombia. He serves as a professor-researcher at the Armenia campus of the Universidad La Gran Colombia, and at the Arauca campus of the Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia. His research topics are associated with Business Competitiveness and the Epistemology of the Economic and Management Sciences. His writings include “Análisis de la realidad competitiva de la cadena forestal en el Departamento de Arauca”, Plan de competitividad de la producción de café para la consolidación del Paisaje Cultural Cafetero y “La competitividad financiera: un componente fundamental de la competitividad empresarial”. (“Analysis of the Competitive Reality of the Forestry Chain in the Department of Arauca”, Plan for Competitiveness in Coffee Production for Consolidation of the Cultural Landscape and “Financial Competitiveness: A Fundamental Component of Business Competitiveness”.)


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