This recent stream of research challenges the positivist conceptions of science and deny that there is an objective "something" that can be studied by science. Rather than a complex web of causality they see a complex web of meanings, and tend to use more literary and cultural analyses than more traditional scientific methodologies.

Postmodernists feel that all knowledge is subjective and contextualized by history and culture. Everything is relative. They reject the idea that rationality is continually advancing through the use of science. Organizations are means of control, power, and enforced discipline. Cooper and Burrell (1988) is an introduction to this arena.

Modern and Post-Modern Organizations
As one "opens" up their definition of an organization, with its multiple realities, interests, coalitions, it becomes difficult to view the organization as a rational system. A "modernist" approach seeks to "impose order on the chaos, to resolve or suppress the contradictions, to integrate the competing interests and agendas so that a single, harmonious vision guides decisions and a consistent set of premises governs the conduct of participants." (Scott p. 312).

A post-modernist view emphasizes the diversity of elements in organizations. It emphasizes that organizations ARE cultures, and their essence is found in their symbolic order (Scott p. 313). The order is constructed through the social interactions, and post-modernists often use "deconstruction" to show how meaning is constructed from basic elements. There is no one truth -- rational perspectives are given no more weight than natural perspectives in understanding what "goes on" in organizations. It's difficult to understand what a "post-modern" organization looks like.