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Rational Decision Making as Performative Praxis: Explaining Rationality's Éternel Retour

Cabantous, L. & Gond, J-P. (2011). Rational Decision Making as Performative Praxis: Explaining Rationality's Éternel Retour. Organization Science, 22(3), pp. 573-586. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0534


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.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: decision making; organization theory; perfomativity; practices; rationality; rational choice theory
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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