Purpose: The paper seeks to analyze the discourse of meaning and interpretation in the social sciences. It aims to provide a historical overview of the hermeneutics and the need for scientific as well as general understanding, and to emphasize the importance of the interpretive approach in management history. Design/methodology/approach: The paper provides an in-depth literature review of interpretation. Findings: Interpretative approach is a basic building block of all science and management praxis. Research limitations/implications: Literature is limited to social science. Practical implications: The paper highlights the importance of interpretation in management dialogue and praxis, vis-à-vis a sole reliance on rationalistic methods. Originality/value: The originality of the paper lies in the scope of its literature review and the broad understanding it provides for management praxis.