Rational decision making as performative praxis: Explaining rationality’s éternel retour

Organization Science 22 (3):573-586 (2011)
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Organizational theorists built their knowledge of decision-making through a progressive critique of rational choice theory. Their positioning towards rationality however, is at odds with the observation of rationality persistence in organizational life. This paper addresses this paradox. It proposes a new perspective on rationality that allows the theorizing of the production of rational decisions by organizations. To account for rationality’s éternel retour, we approach rational decision-making as performative praxis – a set of activities that contributes to turning rational choice theory into social reality. We develop a performative praxis framework that explains how theory, actors, and tools together produce rationality within organizations through three mechanisms: rationality conventionalization, rationality engineering, and rationality commodification. This framework offers new avenues of research on rational decision-making and points to the factors that underlie the manufacture of rationality in organizations.



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