The Rationalization of Organizational Life: The Role of Information Systems

  • Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic
  • Marius Janson


This paper focuses on the relationship between ISs and organisational processes from a perspective of rationality of actors, processes and organisations. Actors in organisational processes are considered rational to the degree to which their actions contribute to the achievement of their goals. Furthermore, organisational processes governed by rational actions are considered rational. More generally, the increase in rationality that characterises modern organisations and society is called rationalisation. The major role of many ISs has been to assist actors in selecting the best actions (e.g., production schedule) to achieve a predefined goal (maximise throughput or minimise waiting times). Given a particular criterion (e.g., minimise cost, maximise margins), such ISs automate the generation of alternative actions and the selection of the best or optimal action, thereby achieving optimal control and ultimate rationalisation of these processes.


Rationality Framework Communicative Rationality Objective World Organizational Life Instrumental Rationality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bjorn-Andersen, N. and K. Eason, (1980) Myths and Realities of Information Systems Contributing to Organisational Rationality. In A. Mowshowitz (Ed.) Human Choice and Computers, North Holland, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  2. Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. (2001). Doing Critical IS Research: the Question of Methodology. In Qualitative Research in Information Systems: Issues and Trends (E. Trauth, Ed.), p. 142–163, Idea Group Publishing, US.Google Scholar
  3. Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. and M. Janson (1999). Communicative Action Theory: An Approach to Understanding the Application of Information Systems. 10th Australasian Conference on Information Systems AC IS ‘89, Wellington, New Zealand, 183–195.Google Scholar
  4. Colruyt, J. (November, 1979) Social-Economic Models, In There are no Gentlemen Here, Sir, (T. Penneman, Ed.) (in Flemish), Druco, Halle, pp.35–37.Google Scholar
  5. Colruyt, J. (May 1993). Interview, Halle.Google Scholar
  6. Colruyt, J. (April 1984). What is Different at Colruyt? In There are no Gentlemen Here, Sir, (T. Penneman, Ed.) (in Flemish), Druco, Halle.Google Scholar
  7. Gephart, R.P.Jr., Boje, D.M. and T.J Thatchenkery (1996). Postmodern Management and the Coming Crises of Organisational Analysis. In Postmodern Management and Organization Theory (D.M. Boje, R.P.Jr Gephart and T.J Thatchenkery, Eds.), p. 1., SAGE, London.Google Scholar
  8. Habermas, J. (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action – Reason and the Rationalisation of Society (Vol I). Beacon Press, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  9. Habermas, J. (1987). The theory of Communicative Action – The Critique of Functionalist Reason, (Vol II). Beacon Press, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  10. Janson, M., Brown, A.P., and T. Taillieu (1997a). Colruyt: An Organization Committed to Communication. Information Systems Journal, 7, 175–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Janson, M., Guimaraes, T. Brown, A. Taillieu and T. Taillieu (1997b). Exploring a Chairman of the Board’s Construction of Organisational Reality: The Colruyt Case. In Information Systems and Qualitative Research (Lee, A., Liebenau, J. and Degross, J.I., Eds.), p. 303, IFIP, Chapman and Hall, London.Google Scholar
  12. Jeske, J. (1982) Designing A Decision Support System For A Changing Bell System. In Decision Support Systems (M. J. Ginzberg, W. Reitman, and E. Stohr, Eds.) p. 133, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  13. Klein, H.K. (1999). Knowledge and Methods in IS Research: From Beginnings to the Future. In New Information Technologies in Organization Processes—Field Studies and Theoretical Reflections on the Future of Work (O. Ngwenyama, L. Introna, M.D. Myers, and J.I. DeGross, Eds.), p.13. IFIP, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston.Google Scholar
  14. Klein, H. and R. Hirschheim (1991). Rationality Concepts in Information System Development. Accounting, Management and Information Technology, 1,2, 157–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Koningsveld, H., and J. Mertens (1992). Communicative and Strategic Action, Murderer, Continuo, (in Dutch), Netherlands.Google Scholar
  16. Lengeler, M. (1993). Interview transcript, Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  17. Lengeler, M. (2000). Interview transcript, Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  18. Lyytinen, K. (1992). Information Systems and Critical Theory. In Critical Management Studies (Alvesson, M. and H. Willmott, Eds.), p. 159, SAGE, London.Google Scholar
  19. Lyytinen, K. and H. Klein (1985). The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas as a Basis for a Theory of Information Systems. In Research Methods In Information Systems (Mumford, E., Hirschheim, R., Fitzgerald, G. and T. Wood-Harper, Eds.), p. 219, Elsevier Science Publishers (North Holland), Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  20. Matteme, M. (1985) In There are no Gentlemen Here, Sir, (T. Penneman, Ed.) (in Flemish), Druco, Halle, pp.168–169.Google Scholar
  21. Mowshowitz, A. (1976) The Conquest of Will: Information Processing in Human Affairs, Addison Wesley, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Rogge, L. (1984) Automatic Inventory Replenishment, in There Are No Gentelmen Here Sir, (T. Penneman, Ed.) (in Flemish), Druco, Halle.Google Scholar
  23. Union Representative (June, 2001), Interview with one of the Authors, Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  24. Van Tocht, J. (March 1994). Professionalisation of the Informaticus. Information, 1–10.Google Scholar
  25. Walsham, G. (1993). Interpreting Information Systems in Organisations. Wiley, Chicester.Google Scholar
  26. Walsham, G. (1995). The Emergence of Interpretivism in IS Research. Information Systems Research, 6(4), 376–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Weber, M. (1958). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Trans. T. Parsons). Scribner’s, New York.Google Scholar
  28. Weber, M. (1964). (Winckelmann, J. ed.) Wirtschaft and Gesellschaft, Studienausgabe. 4 Edition, German, 2 Vols., Kiepenheurer and Witsch, Koln.Google Scholar
  29. Weber, M. (1978). (Roth, G. and Wittich, C., eds.) Economy and Society, 2 Vols. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  30. Wellmer, A. (1994). Reason, Utopia, and the Dialectic of Enlightenment. In Habermas and Modernity (J. R.. Bernstein, Ed.), p. 35, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  31. Wilson, FA (1997) The truth is out there: the search for emancipatory principles in information systems design, Information, Technology and People, 10, 3, pp. 187–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic
    • 1
  • Marius Janson
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Information Systems, Technology and ManagementFaculty of Commerce and Economics, UNSWSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Information SystemsUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations