Critical Management Perspectives on Information Systems by Carole Brooke

By Carole Brooke

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His careful distinction between issues relating to ‘improvement’ in the field of study and those relating to ‘improvement’ in the discipline of IS itself are especially pertinent. Nevertheless, for all the reasons I have outlined above, some readers will probably struggle with accepting the challenge he gives us to generate more ‘meta-level’ studies. Ultimately, such difficulties may remain within the sphere of critical IS; though, hopefully, no longer as an ‘elephant in the room’. This book, after all, was never meant to offer set solutions or even, necessarily, to reconcile differences between positions.

Using data from electronically mediated sources, the authors develop a model of ERP adoption and then they critique it. Taking their lead from March (1988) the authors distinguish between research that involves analysing and predicting substantive outcomes and that which focuses on how organizational activities are perceived, interpreted and legitimated. It is the latter which distinguishes this chapter as taking a critical approach. Drawing on ideas from Weber and Habermas, the critical nature of the work presented resides primarily in its focus on issues of domination and emancipation, communication, rationality and legitimacy.

Few critical IS researchers would call themselves Marxist, but most share a suspicion that current social arrangements are not in everyone’s interest and need to be improved. It has been remarked (Harvey, 1990) that the Marxist roots are typical for the continental European version of critical research and that the Anglo-American view of it draws its inspirations from other sources, notably pragmatism. In this chapter I will rely on the European tradition but I acknowledge that there are other views of criticality not necessarily captured by the theoretical views I outline.

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