The Ontology of organizational paradox: A quantum approach

Tobias Hahn, Eric Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Research on organizational paradox has been burgeoning in recent decades. While consensus is growing on the definition of organizational paradox as persistent contradictions between interdependent elements, its ontology continues to be contested. The inherent and constitutive views of organizational paradox adopt competing ontological positions on organizational paradox as existing irrespective of, or only through, organizational members' discursive construction. In this paper, we develop a novel ontological approach that conceptualizes paradox as both inherent and socially constructed, thereby highlighting the paradoxical nature of the ontology of paradox. To develop our approach, we mobilize the ontological underpinnings of quantum mechanics and reconceptualize the ontology of paradox with regard to its latency, salience, and persistence. As per our quantum approach, paradox is coconstituted by latency-the inherent but indeterminate potential of paradox; salience-the concrete enactment of paradox in a sociomaterial context; and persistence-the repeated enactment of paradox in similar sociomaterial contexts. Thereby, we explain how inherent material factors and socially constructed meaning coconstitute paradox. Our quantum approach to the ontology of paradox transcends the standoff between the inherent and constitutive views and provides a theoretical account for the dual nature of paradox as being both inherent and socially constructed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-384
Number of pages23
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number2
Early online date30 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021


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