The problems and possibilities of a relational approach

Year: 2016

Author: Gannon, Susanne, Eacott, Scott, McLean, Jan, Gower, Graeme

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The positivist image of organizations has been the orthodoxy of educational administration and leadership since its establishment as a field of study in the early 1900s. Social relations have received attention since the work of Mary Parker Follett and the Hawthorne studies of Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger, however rarely have they been able to break free of the generative principles of systems thinking and the reduction of relations to what Harrison White (1992) labels a “measurement construct”. Drawing on a Bourdieusian craft of scholarship, but without loyalty or any great reverence, I have been advancing a relational research program in educational administration more concerned with organizing activity than the structures of institutional hierarchies (e.g., Eacott, 2015, 2017). To work in a relational space is more than a shift in the unit of analysis. It is an ongoing challenge to the very nature of the scholastic enterprise. To think relationally means to call everything into question. In doing so, it moves beyond problems and opens up possibilities.