Systems practice

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 25–41 | Cite as

Action research and critical systems thinking: Two icons carved out of the same log?

  • Morten Levin


My intention in this paper is to make sense of the relationship between Action Research (AR) and Critical Systems Thinking (CST). On the surface, the two strands of thinking do not seem to have much in common. There is hardly any common reference in texts written within each tradition. Deeper down, however, there may be common concerns. The point of departure is to focus on how professionals interact with real-world problems and to clarify the underlying values for professional practice. To facilitate a discussion on the relationship between AR and CST, a frame of reference is developed based on analyzing the meaning construction process. Based on this platform, the relationship among theory, practice, and people shapes the ground for the discussion. Within this discussion three questions are raised: (1) Is the theory understood by the people and based on their interests? (2) Are the research questions relevant for the people? and (3) Are people emancipated to act in their own interests? The relationship between AR and CST can be examined based on these three questions. In concluding, I argue for the potential of a mutual and fruitful dialogue between AR and CST.

Key words

Action Research Critical Systems Thinking professional knowledge everyday knowledge theory practice 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morten Levin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department for Organization and Work Science, The Norwegian Institute of TechnologyThe University of TrondheimTrondheimNorway

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