Organizational Learning: Bringing the Forces of Production Back In
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionOrganization Studies. 2015, 36 (4), 423-444. 10.1177/0170840614561567
Under the influence of the ‘communities of practice’ perspective, research on organizational learning has lost sight of the role of science and technology. As a result, theory development in this field too often takes archaic work forms as its starting point. Based on a structural and materialist interpretation of Marx, this paper proposes an alternative approach that theorizes organizational learning as an outcome of contradictory processes in which the productive forces are progressively socialized, albeit unevenly. This approach leads to a very different perspective on tacit/explicit knowledge, work formalization, identify formation and the roles of managers and engineers. This structural-Marxist theory of organizational learning offers a more fruitful account of learning in technologically advanced, competitive sectors such as the manufacturing and process industries. Increasingly, it also applies to private and public service provision.