Yin Yang and philosophical destruction: transcending cross-cultural management research in the field of international business
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 21:02 authored by Grace Hao Wang
Cross-cultural management research in the field of International Business (hereafter IB) is in a state of paradigm crisis. The dominant methodological positivist paradigm is facing an "internal contradiction" where it can no longer take for granted its own operating assumptions of being objective, context-free and universal—the very activity required for conducting research. In order to go beyond the limitations of the methodological positivist paradigm, and thereby transcend the paradigm crisis, management academics around the world made passionate pleas for strides toward embracing multiparadigm research that utilises insights and strengths from different paradigms. However, present multiparadigm strategies and suggestions are often considered conceptually vague, and of limited use due to their incomplete understanding of the key terms "paradigm" and "paradigm incommensurability". In fact, the notion of paradigm has frequently been objectified, seen as a "thing" to be manipulated, juxtaposed on a board of paradigms or equated to research methodology. Subsequently, the importance of paradigm incommensurability in transforming paradigm limitations and uncovering implicit and tacit assumptions is not realised or utilised in enabling multiparadigm research. As a result, iterative pleas have been made for more than two decades, studies that have successfully adopted multiple paradigms are in fact rare and few. The methodological positivist paradigm continues to dominate cross-cultural management research within the field of IB. This study aims to enable effective multiparadigm study. Thus going beyond paradigm crisis in cross-cultural management research. In so doing, it first provides a clear examination of the terms paradigm and paradigm incommensurability as reflected in the writings of Thomas Kuhn; it then outlines the importance of paradigm incommensurability from a hermeneutic perspective in facilitating paradigm transformation that leads to innovative theory development; and lastly it demonstrates that only through the acknowledgement of paradigm incommensurability, the possibility of seeing from other’s perspective and conducting multiparadigm research is opened up. Second, this study introduces the indigenous Chinese philosophy of Yin Yang as an alternative philosophical framework for cross-cultural management research. The Yin Yang perspective in been dynamic, holistic and paradoxical embraces but goes beyond the framework of methodological positivism. Therefore, it has the ability to encompass and embrace the existence of the incommensurable research perspectives, and hence surpass the limitations of methodological positivism. Third, this study presents the concept of Philosophical Destruction as an essential activity for cross-cultural management research. Philosophical destruction uncovers and examines the underlying assumptions in which the methodologies, epistemologies, ontologies and ethics of a subject area are themselves situated. Thus, enabling researchers to include but also move beyond methodological positivist research assumptions and methodologies. By doing so, the research subject matter will be part of the rationale for choosing a particular methodology rather than assuming a priori that the dominant methodological positivism is the sufficient form of research for all areas of inquiry. The main limitation of this study is its sole focus on theory and conceptualisation. This is largely due to the requirement of this dissertation, which is not to pursue empirical evidence at this initial stage but to concentrate on the broad literature review in developing in-depth understanding of the challenges on hand, and the potential solutions for cross-cultural management research in the field of IB, all with the aim to prepare for the doctoral program in the following year. Overall, the study achieved its main objective in enabling multiparadigm research. It contributed theoretically to cross-cultural management by providing conceptual clarification of the important terms paradigm and paradigm incommensurability; introducing the Yin Yang perspective as an alternative philosophical framework for cross-cultural research; and presenting the concept of philosophical destruction as an essential activity in uncovering implicit paradigm, cultural and research assumptions for cross-cultural management research. Together these clarifications and conceptualisations serve the purpose of challenging and encouraging researchers to fully utilise incommensurability in transforming paradigm limitations, and conducting multiparadigm research that enriches cross-cultural management knowledge generation and theoretical development.