What's in a name? 'BPR' versus outsourcing - A critical realist perspective on emancipation

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Public Management


School of Business




Dobson, P. (2001). What's in a name? - 'BPR' versus 'Outsourcing' - a critical realist perspective on emancipation. In: Hutchinson, W., & Warren, M. (Eds.). Systems in management 7th annual ANZSYS conference 2001: the relevance of systems thinking in the contemporary world. Churchlands, Australia: Edith Cowan University.


Maru and Woodford (2001) cal/ for a greater commitment to the development of emancipatory development methodologies. They suggest that Ulrich's critical systems heuristics is the only critical systems methodology that offers real practical tools for achieving emancipatory development. They also suggest that the emancipatory focus required as a cornerstone of critical systems theory has been diverted through a concentration on pluralism. This paper argues that this diversion to pluralism within critical systems theory is a logical outcome of the epistemological focus of the underlying critical theory of Habermas. This focus on the epistemological or knowledge based aspects of the development process forces a concentration on methodological pluralism through its emphasis on interaction and the communication aspects of the development process. Such a focus must necessarily relegate the importance of the (ontological) conditions necessary for emancipatory practice. This paper proposes the use of the philosophy of critical realism to examine emancipatory practice. Such an emphasis highlights the ontological issues in more detail by arguing for a recognition of the deep structures and mechanisms involved in social situations. Following from a brief introduction to both theories the paper then presents a vignette from a case study under investigation to highlight some differences between Habermas' critical theory and Bhaskar 's critical realism with respect to emancipation and emancipatory practice.