The logic of research in public administration, argues Jay D. White, may be more like that of storytelling than of conventional social science research. In "Taking Language Seriously", he examines the linguistic, discursive, and narrative foundations of public administration research and develops a narrative theory of knowledge development and use for the field. White builds his case for this narrative theory by showing how research on complex problems is grounded in language and discourse. He then explains how a variety of recent developments in philosophy and the humanities - positivism, postpositivism, hermeneutics, critical and legal theory, postmodernism, and poststructuralism - can contribute to our understanding of public administration research. Focusing on the logical structures of three modes of research - explanatory, interpretive, and critical - White shows how each is equally legitimate, depending on the nature of the research questions.
This comprehensive yet clear discussion of the philosophical foundations of research in public administration advances an alternative theory of knowledge development that will be valuable for everyone in fields seeking to affect social, political, economic, and organizational change.
Jay D. White is a professor of public administration at the University of Nebraska, Omaha and coeditor of Research in Public Administration: Reflections on Theory and Practice (Sage Publications, 1994). He is editor of the annual, Research in Public Administration.
Preface 1. A Narrative Theory of Knowledge for Public Administration Research Knowledge as Storytelling The Nature of the ArgumentsA Few Words about PositivismA Preview 2. Knowledge as Storytelling, Interpretation, and Critique Applied Research as StorytellingPublic Administration's Dissatisfaction with ExplanationWhat Is Going on in Other Fields?A Turn to Interpretation?Critical ResearchSummary 3. Three Modes of Research Explanatory ResearchInterpretive ResearchCritical ResearchFoundationsSummary 4. Administrative and Legal Reasoning: Understanding Explanatory, Interpretive, and Critical Rationality Instrumental ReasoningThe Structural Limits of the Rational ModelLegal ReasoningInterpretive and Critical ReasoningImplications for Knowledge Development and UseSummary 5. From Positivism to Postpositivism: The Linguistic Turn in the Philosophy of Science Philosophy and ScienceThe Cartesian AnxietyThe Myth of the GivenThe Correspondence Theory of TruthThe Critique of ExplanationThe Critique of InterpretationThe Linguistic Foundation of KnowledgeThe Practical Rationality of Theory ChoiceSummary6. The Action Movement in Administrative Research: Examples of Interpretive and Critical Research Action TheoryA Case Study of Action TheoryAction ResearchAction ScienceSummary 7. Social Action, Administrative Research, and Literary Interpretation: The Logic of Interpretation and Critique Literary InterpretationPositions in InterpretationThe Relevance of the Author or ActorMeaning and SignificanceThe Canons of InterpretationCriteria for ValidationSummary: A Melding of Genres 8. Taking Language Seriously: Some Postmodern Themes The Loss of Grand NarrativesKnowledge and the Linguistic Basis of Local NarrativesPoststructuralismKnowledge as ConversationThe Local Narratives of Public AdministrationImplications 9. Language, Discourse, and Rationality: The Foundations of a Narrative Theory of Knowledge References Index