Making Organization Research Matter: Power, Values and Phronesis


By Bent Flybjerg

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What is Phronetic Organization Research?

Phronetic organization research is an approach to the study of organizations based on a contemporary interpretation of the classical Greek concept phrone- sis. Following this approach, phronetic organization researchers study organizations and organizing with an emphasis on values and power. In this paper I will first clarify what phronesis and phronetic orga- nization research is. Second, I will attempt to tease out the methodological implications of this research approach.1

Aristotle is the philosopher of phronesis par excel- lence. In Aristotle’s words phronesis is an intellectual virtue that is ‘reasoned, and capable of action with regard to things that are good or bad for man’ (Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, hereafter abbrevi- ated as N.E., 1976: 1140a24–b12, 1144b33–1145a11). Phronesis concerns values and goes beyond analyti- cal, scientific knowledge (episteme) and technical knowledge or know how (techne) and it involves judgements and decisions made in the manner of a virtuoso social actor. I will argue that phronesis is commonly involved in practices of organization and, therefore, that any attempts to reduce organi- zation research to episteme or techne or to compre- hend them in those terms are misguided.

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