Multiple paradigms and organisational research: an analysis of work behaviour in the fire service

  • John S. Hassard

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The thesis examines Kuhn's (1962, 1970) concept of paradigm, assesses how it is employed for mapping intellectual terrain in the social sciences, and evaluates it's use in research based on multiple theory positions. In so doing it rejects both the theses of total paradigm 'incommensurability' (Kuhn, 1962), and also of liberal 'translation' (Popper, 1970), in favour of a middle ground through the 'language-game of everyday life' (Wittgenstein, 1953). The thesis ultimately argues for the possibility of being 'trained-into' new paradigms, given the premise that 'unorganised experience cannot order perception' (Phillips, 1977). In conducting multiple paradigm research the analysis uses the Burrell and Morgan (1979) model for examining the work organisation of a large provincial fire Service. This analysis accounts for firstly, a 'functionalist' assessment of work design, demonstrating inter alia the decrease in reported motivation with length of service; secondly, an 'interpretive' portrayal of the daily accomplishment of task routines, highlighting the discretionary and negotiated nature of the day's events; thirdly, a 'radical humanist' analysis of workplace ideology, demonstrating the hegemonic role of officer training practices; and finally, a 'radical structuralist' description of the labour process, focusing on the establishment of a 'normal working day'. Although the argument is made for the possibility of conducting multiple paradigm research, the conclusion stresses the many institutional pressures serving to offset development.
Date of Award1985
Original languageEnglish


  • Multiple paradigms
  • organisational research
  • work behaviour
  • fire service

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