This article1 relates to the new sciences as modes of management analogy, but, more broadly, it argues a case for the symbolic interpretation of a variety of theories of a qualitative nature. The article is in part concerned with the nature of metaphor and its claim to knowledge—as well as the adequacy of the treatment of that claim, and the implications of the inadequacy of a defense—especially relative to the claims of new science analogies deployed as management exemplars or models of best practice.

The article dwells initially on the metaphoric question and on the particular interpretation of metaphor in this article, and its relation to symbolism. It then shows a range of mythic imagery capable of application to the symbolical metaphors of a selection of management theorists. The article shifts toward the beginnings of a discussion as to the nature of the epistemic claims of these analogies, and closes by a brief discussion of the social implications of that.

A reader wishing to engage with the theoretical aspects primarily might alternately read the article by skipping the amplification of the typology of Farmer/Von Franz (pages 82-95) and returning to these pages after reading the other sections. The linear mode of the article introduces some issues of theoretical contention and proceeds to the mythic typologies (Farmer/Von Franz), which are a form of evidence of the symbolical structures, whose implications I argue in further sections.



I perceive a question that relates to the adequacy of the application of analogies, relative to a particular construction of the nature of proof in the social realm; it relates to the preoccupation with demonstrable or visible proof. That aspect of tangibility is essentially a positivistic concern with evidence. The absence of demonstrable proof for analogical models of application is seen as the basis for empirical falsity—that the proof for the application of the complexity model (for instance) is insufficiently rigorous. My view is that analogization incorporates an implicit ontology, which tends to relate to a different epistemology than that which seeks a material demonstration of the applicability of scientific models to the realms of social science. The implicit ontology of the analogization is one of the construction of a symbolic realm through comparison; that relates to a phenomenological epistemology, concerned with insight or revelation (Morgan & Smirich, 1980: 492). In contrast, the quantitative modes of analysis tend to relate to a desire to place social science on a scientific footing; that tends to conform to an implicit construction of scientific evidence as in some sense continually reaching an absolute (though that “continually” speaks of science’s inability to achieve that absolute). It is also the case that complexity science may at least in some part—for example, quantum physics—emphasize scientific accounts, which do not sit easily with positivistic demonstration.

This article adopts the familiar structure of management “metaphor” (Morgan, 1997), arguing more fully the significance of metaphor—its symbolic dimension (Jung, 1960, 1964; Ricoeur, 1979, 1995) and its significance relative to paradigmatic transitions—an area that was mooted by Burrell and Morgan (Burrell & Morgan, 1979, following Kuhn and Pepper). In this regard, “metaphor” is a mode of description of analogical models as adopted within the framework of discourse related to management theories. It is arguable that the structure of metaphor may both attune itself to the current rationality and anticipate a future rationale (Ricoeur); and that symbolic form may be thus entailed by metaphoric structures within the social sciences. That is to extend the arguments of Ricoeur to those of Morgan; in essence, to vary the premises with which Morgan underpins his theoretical enterprise—in terms of the adoption of a metaphorical theorization that is capable of metaphysical elaboration— and of giving a heightened significance to accounts of the relationship between symbolic order disclosed in areas of academic thought, and reflection as to the possible societal patterns that might be affected by such patterns.

Ricoeur argues for the vitality of the metaphoric process; but unlike some other contemporary theorists of metaphor (for instance, Black, 1981), he stresses not purely the novelty of the literary metaphor but its capacity to represent a mode of aesthetic originality, which may disclose a fresh or advancing epistemic order. That allows the individual’s creative impulse—their capacity to engage in creative processes of analogization—to be displaced relative to an epistemological reformation as metaphor enters a social dimension. That advance becomes an aspect of the advancement of consciousness—of phenomenological advance—it may subsequently give rise to a symbolic order—creations of metaphor, which enter the realm of social discourse.

To Ricoeur, the symbol is perhaps the underside of metaphoric creation, whereas to Jung, another theorist who is used as the basis for my interpretation, the symbol may be read in mythic terms—in terms of an advancing dialog that may be felt at a the conscious level but represents a dialectic of the collective unconscious. Ricoeur is less concerned with images as elements of occult (Jung) or synesthetic experience2 (Cassirer, 1972), than with an account of the symbol as a contrasting element of significance relative to the metaphor; Ricoeur conceiving of the symbol in terms reminiscent of Eliade as being “bound to configurations of the cosmos.” That is to emphasize a contrasting vision of the image in terms of its significance relative to the evocation of a mythical values system relative to a social realm—a past realm of symbolic discourse, if one likes. A theory of metaphor of a transcendental nature is especially useful in these contexts. Ricoeur’s ideas link both notions of a metaphysical dimension of symbolism with ideas of metaphorical action as engaging a paradigmatic redefinition through the reformulation and variation of current ways of seeing knowledge.

By this account, metaphor is the conscious face of symbolism (Ricoeur), displaying mythic structures because symbolism is the mode of instantiation of the mythic realm, its flesh or embodiment. This links with the arguments of Jung, who argued for an archetypal basis of symbolism in terms of unconscious aspects of psyche, both individual and collective. This word “collective” links to another aspect: that we may be dealing with aspects of societal change in belief structures. The aspect of a modification of a societal rationale at a preconscious level is Jungian, expressed as a reformulation of archetypal energies in distinct symbolic patterns. That correlates with ideas as to a change in a “rational context” (Trevor-Roper, 1988).

In that sense, metaphor in new science theories of management (such as complexity theory) could be argued to be an invasive or modified form of rationality—its symbolism could have the effect of promulgating that shift in the rational context. We might expect that “rational context” to be generally resilient, resistant to such a shift:

But all these differences merely affected the practice of the moment: the myth itself was universal and constant. Intellectually logical, socially necessary, experimentally proved, it had become a datum in European life. Rationalism could not attack it, for rationalism itself, as always, moved only with the intellectual context of the time. (Trevor-Roper, 1988: 121)

Certainly, the symbolism (which is created by the device of metaphorical application) provides an integrative structure, which links the science to the social realm; that is, a metaphysical representation. Felt in terms of space, of the imaginative space of the mind, in temporal terms, that can be read in terms of an advancing Zeitgeist.

Those transcendental features, which it is argued a symbolism imports, may reflect a fresh role for the utility of symbolism (and hence metaphor) in models of management thought. The mythic aspect of symbolism may constitute a shift of a transformative nature within an intellectual culture. The shift of a transformative nature may take mythic form and associated features of a “mythic” temperament may be discerned. A shift toward a more imagistic conception of the symbol may be contrasted with that which emphasizes management (or social) models in terms of more abstract or quantitative forms.

Within this context, the quest of the new science epistemologies—to better interpret the status of the firm and thereby add to its effectiveness—has tended to develop metaphor and qualitative modes of analogization, but seeks to reconcile these with the predominant quantitative tradition—and its covert epistemological positivism. This is increasingly felt in the axis of popular complexity theories (e.g., Battram, 1998; Kelly & Allison, 1999). Previously established complexity schools may seek alternately to align with more distinct positions—for example, the recent shifts of the Hertfordshire school have entailed a critique of Morgan (1997) as “objectivist” and augmented arguments of socioconstructivism.3 The desire to reconcile with a quantitative tradition is, however, partial—a desire exists to reconcile with the ontology of positivism in terms of the efficacy of the new science solutions to business— and, at a conceptual level, the new science models gain relief by virtue of an intellectual critique:

We’ve developed graphs and charts and maps to take us into the future, revering them as ancient mariners did their chart books. Without them, we’d be lost, adrift among dragons. We have been, after all, no more than sorcerers, the master magicians of the late twentieth century. (Wheatley, 1992: 26)

The framework in Table 1 outlines some of the principal correspondences between management authors, both of the new sciences (including complexity theory) and selected cybernetic and processual theorists, their particular symbolism, and Farmer’s categories of creation myth motif.

Table 1

Framework of predominant symbolism of management authors

Mythic theme Author Symbolic imagery
Earth • Wheatley• Weick• Sanders• Stafford Beer • Holistic pantheism• Mythic maps• Futurescape• Viable system
Creation of man • Stacey• Mintzberg• Wheatley • Archetype• Artificer• Stellar imagery
Flood Goldstein Bénard experiment
Fire Bergquist Heraclitean change—flame vs. pendulum
Death • Goldstein• Stacey• Wheatley • Self-fulfilling prophecy• Shadow• Death-watch mechanism• Darwinism
The slain god • Bergquist• Various authors • Butterfly leader• Organic images
End of the world Various authors Butterfly effect

Table 2 shows the equation of themes between Von Franz (Jungian theorist) and Farmer’s mythic typology of creation myth themes.

Table 2

Farmer and Von Franz: Equations of mythic creation myths and psychoanalytic implications

Farmer Von Franz
Earth Deus faber—god as artificer—double creator may emphasize active and passive roles. Active is associated with increasing consciousness. Creation may also be described as originating from above or downwards—separate motifs.
Creation of man Cosmogonic awakening—creation of world as awakening to consciousness.
Fire and flood Both fire and flood relate to subjective moods of the creator, which is explained as a rationale for the destruction of prior races of mankind. A related theme is abortive attempts at creation by a god.
Death Twin creators—one of which is representative of an archetypal tendency to consciousness; another tends to be more passive, often feminine, and “bent more towards death” (Von Franz, 1995: 106).
Slain god Motif of first victim—sacrificial figure.
End of world Creation renewed and reversed. New world order following apocalyptic conflagration.



Farmer (1978) typologizes creation myths into a structure of forms or patterns. It is possible to interpret the symbolic forms of new science and related imagery, with the particular themes, which are predominant motif of creation myth accounts. Farmers’ account is generic across different mythic traditions; the account of Von Franz correlates with those generic themes at a level of pyscho-analytic interpretation. Therefore in our particular interpretations, an element of Jungian analysis will inform a narrative of creation myth significance.

According to Jungian theory, the flow of the symbol within societal belief structures represents the shift in archetypal patterns—that is, an ongoing and progressive dialectic. Jung views myth as ever-present currency and not a formative stage in the intellectual evolution of belief patterns. Archetypal fluctuations may be situated historically (as, for example, was attempted in Jung’s disciple, Neumann) relative to the archetype of the “mother”), but the socio-historical display of the archetype—though it may be read in historical terms—is present in archaic layers of the psyche at both an individual and collective level.

Within this article, the creation myth aspect of the new science theories of management becomes an aspect of theorization and a template for construction of both these and non-new science theories. The ideas of Jung corroborate this construction, as they dwell especially on the thematic of creation myths as archetypal forces; these may be socially displaced as correspondents towards shifting Zeitgeist (Hegel), of management paradigms (Kuhn, Burrell, and Morgan). Management “metaphors” act as the discrete vehicle for these symbolic structures. A framework is evolved that utilizes an admixture of the mythic categories of Von Franz (Jungian theorist) and Farmer to present a range of themes that are then interpreted in terms of new science and related symbolism.


Farmer discusses this cosmogonic theme in terms of the earth being made from the body of a monster or giant; or evolving from a void; or, third, evolving from a weaver, carpenter, or potter. Maclagan (1977), in his account of creation myths, links the idea of the earth body of a god with that of sacrifice, for example:

After the Norse Giant Ymir was slain by the three first gods, “From the flesh of Ymir the world was formed, From his blood the billows of the sea, The hills from his bones, the trees from his hair, the sphere of heaven from his skull.” (Maclagan, 1977: 26)

Von Franz describes this theme in her account of the first sacrifice. Also she mentions a creator as craftsman or deus faber, an example being the creation of the Egyptian gods on the potter’s wheel by the god Ptah (Von Franz, 1995: 133). Von Franz also explicitly links the idea of the god as craftsman with the aspect of the creation myth as an awakening to consciousness. An illustration of this theme may be shown in the Norse account of the creation of man by a new order of gods (Philip, 1995: 21). Stone (1997) explores the aspects of correlation of these themes with the Indo-European cosmogonic mythologies. He dwells on the widespread nature of belief systems related to the idea of a dismemberment of an archetypal or divine figure. He describes this in terms of its prevalence as a belief system and nucleus of social order. The idea of intelligent or adaptive matter is central to complexity theory and borrows from Bohm’s metaphysic. It perhaps represents the intrusion of complexity theory—its holism—into the terrain of a sovereign human consciousness—distinct in will and qualities—which was central to Christian traditions and also enlightenment science. In that sense, an alternative values cluster reemerges at a symbolic level, with resonance of an earlier Indo-European creation myth tradition.

I suggest that the new science—as a canonical theorization relative to human life—offers an alternative perceptual reality. The symbolism holds with the force of material reality. The images attain phantasmic grip (Couliano, 1984). They derive force from creation myth exemplars, which place material constituents of reality as aspects of a cosmogonic break-up (Stone, 1997). Matter is thereby not dead but inclined toward degrees of adaptiveness. This is clearly the case with Gaian theory. The imagery of new science theorists of management tends to support this, for example, the snow-pack or avalanche in Bergquist, the Bénard experiment or butterfly effect (most theorists). Even deterministic effects, which do not show adaptive forms, are related in small part to the adaptive organism, Stacey (1996) arguing that basic similarities exist between deterministic and adaptive systems. The Indo-European dismemberment myth may be termed as the archetypal loss of identity, which founded a cosmogonic order. It is possible to construe the aspect of paradigm shift that new science theorization suggests as an ideal, relative to a loss of the firm’s prior identity. Cosmogonic break-up occurs at a psychological level in intrafirm new science transformations. A tendency exists to relegate the role of reason in this respect, relative to firm transformation—a good example of which is the adoption of Brunnson’s ideas that paradigm shift incorporates an essential irrationality (Stacey, 1993, 1996).

The kind of traditions that resonate with creation myth patterns were very much hierarchical structures, often based on rigid social structures or strata; Stone (1997) notes that Dumezil describes the theory of divine body as a base of cosmogonic order, in terms of societal order:

Whether the Indo-European system can truly be classed as an ideology, as Georges Dumezil has asserted, or as an interlocking and multi-layered series of correspondence based on an essentially magical view of the world and nature remains to be seen. The three functions discerned by Dumezil are clearly related to the division of the body into three parts, with those referring in turn to the three main social divisions—rulers (priests and kings), warriors and providers (farmers and artisans), represented respectively by the head: chest and arms: and the abdomen, genitals and legs. The formalization of this pattern in myth, religion and ritual, is supported by a wealth of evidence from all over the Indo-European world. (Stone, 1997: 21)

The mythical cosmogony becomes a form of charter myth for societal stability. In similar terms it could be argued that new science and related theorization augment a novel new science epistemology with a symbolism that underpins a worldview essentially supportive of a particular world order; the world order is western capitalism, however.

Certain new science themes—such as the concept of chaos and the void (derived from Hesiod) or the notion of Gaia (ecology)—are of clear mythic relevance; they seem to have an archetypal significance. These are echoed in other mythic structures of thought, for instance, the Norse. They show clear affinities between early creation myth structures—primordial forces so represented—and undifferentiated source origins of cosmology. Hence, the new science itself resonates with cosmogonic themes.

At the lowest levels, organic images contribute to new science and new science management theory symbolism by specific metaphors; this is an aspect of holism. An instance of such imagery is the conception of the avalanche or fitness landscape (Bergquist, 1993; Kelly & Allison, 1999). A popular image is the web or dance (Capra, 1972, 1996; Wheatley & Kellner-Rodgers, 1996), also noted by Von Franz relative to the idea of the god as artificer (Von Franz, 1995: 134-7).

Such ideas of mythic cosmography also extend to the processual school of theorists; for example, the mythic maps of Weick (1994) and Mintzberg’s (1991) image of the potter. Similarly within cybernetics, Beer’s (1972) image of the firm looks at the individual psychology in terms of a cybernetic model of consciousness, which involves interrelationships with the entire body. The individual body becomes metaphorically an organizational form. This is to extend microcosm to macrocosm—Beer may be said to anticipate their linkage in his non-new science complexity theory.


Farmer describes myths involving the creation of man from various materials; this can involve successive cycles of creation in which the gods experiment before coming to a successful resolution (Aztec). Often, creation is also linked to aspects of earth or substance such as clay (for example, Aztec mythology narrates the various failed attempts to create man from wood then clay, eventually man being created by a mix of maize flour). Often, also, an essential principle or breadth is involved and breathed into man by god (the Koran). A god or gods are perceived here as artificer. The essence of the issue is the transformation of matter.

Of particular interest relative to this theme is what Von Franz describes as the theme of the cosmogonic awakening (above). The themes developed are those of a god who becomes self-aware or reflective through the process of creation; this may involve mistaken attempts at creation or artifice. That can be a mode of accounting for the existence of evil (Von Franz, 1995: 30-31). In essence, we have the notion of original creation (of man) as being like a pattern or mold of a created thing; not only can one have an exemplar or first form of man, but also aborted attempts at creation.

In terms of new science mythic structures we have the fundamental notion of radical or miraculous change, which occurs at a point of selforganization (especially seminal is Prigogine & Stengers, 1984). Most accounts of complexity constellate a self-organization principle at the hub of the emergence of firm transformation. In generic terms, it may be perceived as a vital principle of human existence, and implicitly an account of human origins. For example, Capra (1996) synthesizes a self-organizing account of material causation with aspects of chaos theory, but corroborated relative to an extension of ideas into human realms by virtue of the employment of autopoietic theories. This tendency is followed by recent new science theories (Battram, 1998; Kelly & Allison, 1999).

In individual terms, the archetype (Stacey) is the human image actualized in transcendent terms. That is partially related to Jungian psychology. In Jung, the archetype equates with the schema (Kant) and this correlates areas of transcendental and rational activity. Stacey utilizes theorists influenced by Jung and Freud: Klein and Winnicott. The positive aspect of the analogy of the attractor and organizational development is covertly presented in terms of transcendence—a mode of “individuation.” For example, Stacey tends to conceive of the uncertain path of the firm—in terms of a chaotic trajectory (Stacey, 1993)—as nevertheless having a range of qualitative predictability or sureness. Goldstein (1994) similarly views the escape from an imprisoning self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of replacement of an attractor, which engages a repetitive negative pattern (akin to a vicious circle), by a “far from equilibrium” attractor.

Recent tendencies of discussion have also focused on the release of a vicious circle of activities and organizational transformation as a step toward organizational transcendence (Kelly & Allinson, 1999).


Farmer notes that this may come as a moral punishment (Noah), or may be arbitrary (Babylonian), or an aspect of a malevolent deity (Greek myths). This is a mythical image of great resonance:

For six days and six nights the winds blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood ravaged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the flood was stilled; I looked at the face of the world and there was silence, all mankind was turned to clay. (Farmer citing Babylonian creation myth, 1978: 48)

She notes that it is the point at which humanity evolves as a multilingual society. Often, these motifs are associated with a vessel or mode of magical deliverance. The motif of the grail (Arthurian legend) is akin to this. This has forebears in terms of Welsh legends of a cauldron in which the dead could be reborn.4 Christian tradition is especially redolent with this theme, the cup or vessel of communion being a kind of synthesis of themes of sacrifice and rebirth; echoing also the Codex of the Hebraic tradition in relation to the symbolism of the lamb. Layers of mythic themes lead to successive reformulation of this motif. It is also possible to trace the flood as a Jungian motif for the primordial force of the unconscious in terms of its prolixity to devour archetypal configurations.

In terms of new science theories, Goldstein’s self-organization theory displays the flood as a symbol of inertia within organizations dominated by a particular self-fulfilling prophecy. In this respect, the dominant image is that of the Bénard experiment, derived from the work of Prigogine and Stengers. The flood is symbol of excessive equilibria; far from equilibrium conditions facilitate change or transformation. This is related to a greater openness of the organization toward externally located information. The Bénard experiment becomes a miniature world—a macrocosmic metaphor for the firm, self-transforming—attaining symbolic status relative to organizational transformation. In this respect it has grail-like affinities: it is argued that the firm—a miniature world—may be reborn through self-organization policies.

The image of the storm, which is a metaphorical facet or constituent of the butterfly image, may be argued to represent the malevolent aspect of the flood. The image of storm is discrete; for instance, the topical image of the butterfly effect—that a small cause leads to a disproportionate effect—in terms of storm or tornado. A sense of inversion is present, or reversion to an original pristine state. Flood is a kind of extension of the power of the god to unmake, almost in that context an inversion of the image of god as artificer. The dominant image is one of turbulence or anarchic force. An emphasis on fluids, snowfalls, or avalanches may be construed as related to moments of bifurcation (Bergquist, 1993; Kelly & Allinson, 1999).


Farmer traces this in several terms. She mentions the influence of Levi-Strauss, who linked fire with cultural progress. Prometheus was the archetypal trickster who brought fire and this is a prevalent mythic motif. Farmer states that this “leads mankind beyond his natural limits.” The cost is death, however; for instance, the Pandora sequel to the episode of Prometheus in Greek creation mythology. Fire becomes an expression of a differentiated consciousness, of races emerging from a oneness with a primordial mythic state. That is a casting out from a metaphorical Eden; death becomes the price of the advantage that self-consciousness of libidinal energies (fire) brings.

Fire is also conceived as linked to consciousness in the work of Simon Magus, an early Gnostic author influenced by Heraclitus (Von Franz, 1995: 198-9). The common bond between these writers is the expression that fire represents logos, which Von Franz equates with “word” and the imposition of a rational frame or order; so that “for Heraclitus fire is also the world intelligence, the rational order in everything.” Heraclitus emphasises fluidity of process, rather than fixity. In Jungian terms, and related to the solar mythologies of Max Muller, this can be linked to the positive aspect of the transcendental. Fire, stars, and the sun are embodiments of the solar principle in terms of the transcendental. The archetype is also a solar man. The idea of god as artificer seems related but distinguishable from the solar principle. Sun gods express archetypal energies that seem resonant of the enterprise of mankind—opposition between gods of light and procreative forces are frequently illustrated (the myth of Apollo and Python).

The craft theme is singular and leads toward a different though related development in creation myths. Von Franz notes the evolution of craft-related themes in societal developments of the Promethean theme, for instance, the connection between the role of the smith and the shaman in tribal societies (Von Franz, 1995: 221-2). McGrath argues (1997) that Indo-European civilizations worshiped female solar deities. She also stresses certain recurrent themes, including the rescue or transformation of a sun goddess in spring—the transformation of Hel (winter hag) to solar virgin (sol) in Germanic mythology. Myths related to solar virgins seem to link with myths of fertility; for example, Persephone could be construed in these terms—as the absence of the sun. In intrapersonal terms, relative to Jungian theorization this could be perceived as the absorption of the feminine individuated consciousness within the subconscious (earth).

Within the new science theories fire is less salient as an image of rebellion or craft. Bergquist (1993) is a notable exception. He contrasts fire with the pendulum, emphasizing a Heraclitean view of science—on process, rather than the finished form of matter. In Goldstein (1994), fire is the source of change in the Bénard experiment (heat); it invokes the farfrom-equilibrium transition of the Bénard experiment toward hexagonal (self-organizing) cells. Heat is a libidinal analog in this context. The solar image is the triumph over temporality; the sun (or fire in its dynamic aspect) is the sol invictus. In mythic accounts interpreted by Jung, it is perceived as the triumph of the individuation process; and perceived in masculine terms as an archetype. A notable evolution of this conception is present in Stacey’s (1996) discussion of the attractor.

Stellar imagery is also present in Wheatley: the image of the organization as star “spiraling into form; cohering into visibility on winter nights” (Wheatley & Kellner-Rodgers, 1996). This image has affinities with scientific theories as to the origin of the universe (relative to the interaction of stellar matter).5 This relates to the idea of inexplicable causation: stars are pursued as analogies for creative organizational activities), and this theme can be linked to the idea developed by Von Franz to the effect that primitive mythological systems find the idea of void or absence of matter or “beginning” virtually inexplicable.6 The theme of libidinal energy exhibited in stellar form tends to be integrated in a complex order (Wheatley, 1992). This gives the complex order a magical resonance—it is part of a stellar macrocosm. Especially the links between fluidity of forms and novelty of occurrence take on board the imagery of fire. The image is both the apex of natural energy and resonant with aspects of human individuation; it therefore embodies a duality in mythic terms—it represents a force of nature, which is also a force of mankind.

In summary, fire may be related to the theme of craft and human enterprise—often against antagonistic divine forces (Prometheus). It becomes linked with alchemy and mystical themes; it is also linked to solar imagery. That latter strand lends itself to a Jungian interpretation.


Farmer (1978) speaks of this relative to its being viewed as an aberration or whim of the gods, for example, Pandora. It may be linked to a moral code (Old Testament), transgression of which links man with temporality. Mythic expositions may express death as a necessity, ordained relative to mythic patterns—a psychologically necessary etiological function for the reassurance of societal anxieties. Many mythic accounts emphasize death; it seems a primordial aspect of explication: it relates to consciousness and our sense of being, rather than the extrinsic physicality of the world (fire/flood). Maclagan (following Jungian approaches) notes that “death as the ultimate dissolution of identity, is the dialectical contrary of the process of individuation which is characteristic of human life” (Maclagan, 1977: 27). It can also be conceived as the opposite of libidinal dynamism.

Death can be viewed in organizational terms as mortality, related to disorder—or inertia. In Stacey’s account (1996) it may possibly be avoided by reaching nonequilibrium states. Death is also a feature of the “shadow organization” if affiliated to inertia or disorder. Organizations operate on the “edge of chaos” (Stacey, 1996, following Kauffman and Santa Fe), and seek to obtain a “space for creativity” to avoid their deaths. Organizations that fail are metaphorically identified with death. Sometimes death-like imagery is used flexibly with some conceptual latitude as to its precise meaning—for instance, the shadow organization (Stacey, 1996). The context of the situation declares whether the shadow is positive or negative. Death may also be an aspect of recreation—of transformation of the organization. The theme of primordial destruction transmitted via new science theorists to new science theorists of management:

The metaphor of the cosmic dance has found its most profound and beautiful expression in Hinduism in the image of the dancing god Shiva. Among its many incarnations, Shiva, one of the oldest and most popular Indian gods, appears as the King of Dancers. According to Hindu belief, all life is part of a great cosmic process of creation and destruction, of death and rebirth, and Shiva’s dance symbolizes this eternal life-death rhythm which goes on in endless cycles. (Capra, 1972: 269)

This he instantiates in terms of modern physics, to the effect that “modern physics (quantum theory) has thus revealed that subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating pattern of creation and destruction” (Capra, 1972: 271). We can see similar themes in new science theories of management; for instance, Stacey notes:

As with all other non-linear feedback systems the edge of chaos for organizations is also a place of ambiguity and outright paradox, a process of creative destruction. (Stacey, 1996)

Other authors display this theme: in Goldstein (1994) the parables of selffulfilling prophecies are modes of death; that is, linked to an imprisoning inertia—for example, the idea of a balance of expectations relative to a memory of stock-market trends (the Joseph effect). Equilibrium in this scale is part of a perpetuating process: nonlinear impulses are enthralled by a presiding balance. Contrastingly, in Wheatley (1992) the death of organizations is viewed more abstractly, as the inverse of “holistic” values associated with organic notions; “mechanism” is embodied in ideas like business process reengineering, or excessive competition with Darwinism. These latter two are conceived as a false values base. In that sense, images of disorder or inertia are used to portray opposing values systems, which can be represented negatively and in death-like terms (for instance, the “death watch” image). Death-like imagery stands directly opposed to the imagery of fire and solar principle, which has been associated with archetypal energies. Also, the theme of Schrödinger’s cat is of particular interest—it is arguably a microcosm of incipient duality, which occurs at a primeval state of creation and echoes themes of preconscious totality (following Von Franz, 1995; see Table 2).

The symbols that counter death are those of the web and the dance. They have connotations of death in folklore: death is implicit within them in a symbolic sense (as it is in the word “shadow”); it is the kernel of their vitality that they represent the overcoming of death by virtue of involving death in a form of rite or representation that celebrates life. In metaphorical terms, that obtains through the vital contrast of an explicit positive activity (celebration of life in dance, for instance) with a discrete or less apparent mirror image; hence, a “dance of death” in terms of medieval folklore. Huizanga describes that well in terms of a danse macabre; in that context, “the indefatigable dancer is the living man himself in his future shape, a frightful double of his person” (Huizanga, 1979: 141). Wheatley (1992) makes particular use of this image; Capra (1996) and also Zohar (1993), who defines quantum systems in terms of a dance metaphor, influence her:

With our quantum dancers, we would say that, with their particle aspects they remain separate individuals, while with their wave aspects their identities overlap and combine to form the additional, ‘higher’ reality of the dance. (Zohar & Marshall, 1993: 80)

Perhaps a salient aspect of the imagery of death in new science theorization is that it may exhibit a narrative of action; the more static forms of depiction emphasize temporality or mechanization; alternatively, imagery of vitality (such as danse) symbolizes processes of renewal. This aspect is not entirely unlike the subtle aspect of innuendo in the masks and dances of death in medieval folklore. In cases of “re-creation,” death-like imagery is used to remark on initial phases of imprisonment in inertial patterns (for instance, Goldstein’s self-fulfilling prophecies, Goldstein, 1994). However, “creative destruction,” a kind of death, allows death to be surpassed. Stacey (1996) emphasizes specific links between his theorization and the Austrian school of economics (Schumpeter’s “creative waves of destruction”); that is, to place in a positive light the aspect of “creative destruction and spontaneous self-organization” (Stacey, 1996: 201). Capra (1972) and his conception of correspondence between Hindu and new science belief structures may also influence Stacey.


Farmer (1978) speaks of vegetative cults; instances of myths of Attis and Osiris (Egypt); Adonis (Greek); and also Narcissus and numerous other transformations (Ovid). She also introduces Christian themes.

Connections with death and the theme of the creation of the earth or cosmogonic order from the body of a (sacrificed) god emphasize aspects of the slain god theme. In Jungian terms, sacrifice may preserve the psyche from absorption in the unconscious—the psychic energy may then emerge without destruction. If the absorption into the unconscious is involuntary (a sacrifice), it may not. Von Franz sheds interesting light on this theme:

We must ask ourselves what this motif of the destruction of a gigantic human form or humanlike being means psychologically. I think the meaning is relatively transparent: this primeval being represents an aspect of preconscious totality, sometimes whole and sometimes, as in the motif of Tiamat7 more the passive aspect, which is destroyed for the sake of the further development of consciousness. (Von Franz, 1995: 160)

A thematic correlation between fertility cults and organic imagery relates to the “holistic” structure of new science theories of management, which have organic categories and include vegetable images. For example, trees are likened to distinct organizational types (Berquist, 1993); weeds or grasses related as forms of bottom-up enterprise (Mintzberg, 1991). Vegetative renewal by sacrifice is really a matter of renewal from death, and involves the idea of fertilization. An instance of this is the figure of the “butterfly leader”—this may be interpreted in terms of sacrificial themes (Bergquist, 1993), stated as akin to the demands of the postmodern enterprise. This figure has a mercurial, evanescent quality—he is contrasted with another organic image, the silkworm, meant to suggest the more plodding leader associated with the “modernist” paradigm. In mythic terms, the theme of sacrifice is less well established within the images of the new science.

Relative to Von Franz’s (1995) Jungian interpretation of sacrifice, the complex order proposed by later new science theories of management is oriented around a kind of individuation, but they have the flavour of Gaia—the individuation proposed is obtained by conformity to the designs of a macrocosm. The images promote a dialectic of individuation within the enclosed logic of the scientific theories, which act as their “paradigm.” If one interprets that paradigm in terms that do not cohere with its values, one could argue that the archetypes and libidinal energies are essentially in thrall to a natural order posited as scientific knowledge. Human consciousness is permitted free will, within the constraints of the deterministic structure of scientific analogy. The complex order gives an illusion of choice.


Farmer (1978) sees this as providing a new stage in more sophisticated mythic accounts; in less sophisticated accounts something goes wrong in mechanistic terms, or matters simply reach a predicted end (Aztec). Following a fall, the idea of a new temporal and spatial realm is present in, for instance, Christian theologies. That concept is not unique to these and something of the same kind was conceived in, for example, Viking mythology following ragnarok (end of gods). The fall is a cataclysm, which brings about a new undifferentiated cosmology (if cosmology it can be called). It therefore takes us to that prior undifferentiated state. Therefore, the fall is ultimately anticipated in different modes by both death (on an individual level) and the flood. The fall, I perceive, is an antagonistic explication of renewal to the idea of the slain god who fertilizes creation. The figure of Christ is really on this account redemption that averts the fall.

I would argue that the myth of the fall is most clearly present in these authors (new science theorists) with their particular stress on the failings of current management theories—especially the planning approach. One has a sense, therefore, of the new science theorists as trying to remedy a fallen creation. So, for instance, in Wheatley (1992), the new precepts will usher in a fresh age of “meaning” without “competition,” which (with no intention) is almost a societal idealism commensurate with a millenarianist account. The figure I would choose to exemplify the fall in the new science authors is the butterfly effect, because contained within it is the image of the storm of anarchic force. Also contained within is the metaphor of escalative nonlinearity. The butterfly leader is perhaps the nearest we come to a Christ-like figure (Bergquist, 1993); the strange attractor becomes a correlative for “meaning” (idealism) in Wheatley (1992). The butterfly is also an animal image; these are often depicted as the lowest significant layer of complexity theory analogies of scientific instantiations. Imagery of attractors may take explicit symbolic form (for instance, Wheatley’s three-winged bird).

If one perceives the values scale of the new science theorists as essentially determinist, one mode of translation of that determinism is that these theories veil, but ultimately represent, the triumph of nature over human will. The butterfly image is the archetypal image of the fall. It is an embodiment of chaos theory, which is closer to the myth of the fall than the other theories.

A further account of the significance of chaos theory is warranted. Nonlinearity and the impossibility of calculation of the initial stages of chaos trajectories do away with the potential of calculation of envisaged stages, when applied as new science analogical models to management exemplars. This might encourage a kind of mitigated fatalism, akin to that which encompassed the adherents of the Norse pantheon of beliefs. Most new science authors tend to doubt a “rationalistic” conception of linear planning, the thrust of the new science management theories having swung from an initial identification with quantitative measures (for instance, Priesmeyer, 1992) toward varieties of qualitative treatment (Goldstein, 1994; Wheatley, 1992; Wheatley & Kellner-Rogers, 1996), and toward attempts at greater integration with planning approaches (Kelly & Allison, 1999). Because these authors argue that nonlinear states involve shifts to fresh vistas or conceptions of rationality, this tends to minimize values of rational choice; this echoes a theme initially promoted in the processual paradigm.

Certain of the authors emphasize intra-organizational competition (notably Stacey, 1993), but more usually the perspective is unitary rather than pluralist; little emphasis is placed on the internal face of potential dissent—rather, the aspect of external competition is obliquely addressed in that the new science attempts to present itself as a solution to the problems that may bedevil business.


A first point is that the symbolic imagery is not the intended product of the new science mentality, the ostensible purpose of analogical comparison. From the perspective of the theorists, their conscious argument reveals certain objectives, in relation to which it could be said that the symbolic structures are acausal products. The new science theorists of management tend to produce a symbolism with conscious intent to convey more vividly their conceptual arguments within a rational context of argument—often addressed to other theorists in the management field.

The broad thrust of complexity theories and related symbolism can be perceived as a re-emergence of the symbolist movement (Turner, 1990). Cohesive symbolism in the new sciences can be seen to achieve a decorative imagery that fulfills the promise of that (seemingly life-less) paradigm. Emergent traditions of symbolism—devoured, if one likes, by management orthodoxy—have reappeared like Athena from the head of Zeus, bursting from within the very context of scientific structures that have themselves challenged the existing epistemological perspectives. On this account the symbolism is hidden and ordering; it is also fragmentary and likely to be obtained in part and subjectively by the reader. In a sense, one might define it as a tacit dimension of metaphorical elaboration that obtains at a preconscious level but that is perceived “as in a glass darkly.” A creation myth structure for management theories celebrates a hierophany of the transcendental within the modern consciousness. That symbolism is something of a “Rosetta stone” to which we have ascribed a mythic key; but it is an important aspect of that mythic key that it relates to a lock whose nuts and bolt tie with metaphoric structures.

Metaphor is therefore, on this interpretation, a means of arguing a case for an analogy on a global scale (as management “metaphor,” Morgan, 1997). Implicit in that theorization is a comparison between analogization and the processes of comparison involved in the semantic theory of metaphor. That latter theory tends to be emphasized in conventional terms of a more conventional account of metaphor as obtaining insightful similarities (Morgan, 1997, following Black), but a transcendental theory of metaphor may obtain further purchase (Ricoeur). A mythic schema of analysis has a conceptual basis of metaphoric interpretation that steps away from a conventional interpretation of metaphor, as emphasizing comparative categories within an existing epistemology. Rather, it looks to the pristine state prior to the process of “differentiation” to which myth alludes (Weiner, 1994), and to which the rational aspect of metaphor is alien. On Weiner’s account, totemism (associated with modern anthropological variations of the practices of forebears) is “what remains of a diminished totality” and a creation myth is the introduction of a structured discontinuity into what would otherwise be a “primordially infinite or continuous series so as to produce the categorical oppositions necessary for ordered social life” (Weiner, 1994). Creation myth accounts therefore give narrative structure to existence and allow a ratification of the etiological origins of social order. On this account, the creation myth is a mode of consolidation of a status quo—though other accounts are possible (Kirk, 1991).

Fundamentally, the western conceptions of myth envisage mythic structures as forms of narrative. Weiner (1994) regards these as reflecting a differentiated cosmos. Myth in that sense, and especially creation myth, alludes to a sacred or undifferentiated state; the consciousness of myth per se is an aspect of profane ontology (Eliade, 1968). Myth represents the first stage of “differentiation” or of a higher degree of societal sophistication associated with advances beyond absorption in a state of mythic sensibility (Cassirer, 1953). A creation myth is in this sense an initial narrative of differentiation—it is in a sense a description of the loss of innocence, having the quality of the apple in the garden.

The self within the mythic does not self-consciously realize its mythic nature on these accounts. A differentiated cosmos is very much a creation of an epistemological perspective, which differentiates subject and object—distinct points of causation emphasizing aspects of spatial and temporal distinctions. It may be argued that the first modes of epistemology that reconciled the differentiation of subject and object wrestled with these phenomena in terms of the emergence of science from myth (early Greek philosophy such as the Milesian school). Aristotelian philosophy represented the outcome of the emergence of an early epistemological perspective, which had very considerably distinguished itself (but not, I argue, totally) from cosmogonic perspectives redolent of creation myth perspectives. The separation of form and cause and its conceptual reconciliation in Aristotelian thought reflect an abstract solution to a dilemma, which may also be expressed as related to the emergence from a perspective or sensibility in which form could not be distinguished from conceptual accretions (Cassirer, 1972).

In theoretical terms a relational theory of myth—which associates mythical origins of consciousness (Cassirer, 1972) would identify with a paradigm of reality that did not emphasize differentiated features of knowledge:

The relational theory of myth entails the negation of referential theory (a product of rational judgement), based on the judgement that the latter is grounded in a subject-object paradigm of reality. (Olivier, 1981)

A relational ontology would emphasize myths as pure or immediate experience; that mythic locations are not present in space or time, but prior to reflection, hence “reflection dichotomizes experience” (Olson, 1981). In plainer English, one can say that the ontological position of mythic structures is a little insecure in terms of the mythic being an initial or early epistemology. Creation myths signal that insecurity and tension between referential form and relational (or pristine) mythic content.

It is argued that two types of perspectives are present, one that views knowledge in terms of an interrelationship with a totality or immanent state of primordial origin; and one that views knowledge as a declension or refinement of such a state. It is feasible to suggest that new science theories of management incorporate both kinds of knowledge: at an explicit level, conscious metaphoric contrast; at an implicit level, an epistemology of identification is adopted. The presence of epistemology encompasses an evolution toward a more conscious alienation from a sense of identification or oneness with nature. I would propose that, to the extent that a theory of the new science establishes in social terms a metaphoric symbolism; this regulates the implicit assumptions that underlie the analogical applications of the new science in organizational contexts. In this sense, the constitution of metaphoric structures could be defined as a kind of “symbolic form” that embeds the new science in a social context.


A useful mode of demonstration of these ideas may be found through examination of the views of an influential new science theorist, Capra, relative to western philosophical currents. Capra suggests a conceptual variation of the autopoietic arguments developed by Maturana and Varela, augmented by virtue of theorizations derived from the new sciences (especially self-organization theory as derived from Prigogine and Stengers):

In a nutshell, I propose to understand autopoiesis, as defined by Maturana and Varela, as the pattern of life (i.e. the pattern of organization of living systems); dissipative structure as defined by Prigogine, as the structure of living systems; and cognition, as defined initially by Gregory Bateson, and more fully by Maturana and Varela, as the process of life. (Capra, 1996: 156-7)

This tends to shift the new sciences as epistemic theorization into the ground of ontology, and it is the nature of that shift (principally focusing on the fusion of autopoiesis and the new science theory of self-organization or dissipative structure) that is the focus of this section.


Capra (1996) observes that “the German romantic poets and philosophers returned to the Aristotelian tradition by concentrating on the nature of organic form.” This section concentrates on the new science interpretation of Aristotelian and Kantian self-organizing theories within the context of their arguments.

A similarity exists between Kant’s organic conception of self-organizing properties and Aristotle’s theory of entelechy:

Now by form, of course, he (Aristotle) means not mere shape or configuration … he means a kind of functional structure or organization. He spells this out by coining a new word for the type of structure or form he has in mind. It is the word entelechy, which seems to mean an organization in virtue of which a thing is capable of functioning in the ways that are characteristic of its particular type of life activity—of achieving the way of acting that is its telos or end. (Magee, 1987: 49)

Entelechy as defined by Magee encompasses the formulaic aspect of cause or formal causation defined in these terms (Ross, 1923) and alludes to the teleological aspect of Aristotelian final causation. These features are conceptually distinct within Aristotelian causation, though they may operate in unity. It is the interpretation of that unity of these distinct theories of causation that gives a conceptual ground very similar to our current conceptions of causation, in that a modern (post-Humean) conception of formal causation within a temporal sphere of extension suggests a form of self-organizing teleology. One can note that these aspects, especially the feature of final causation, are influences that inform the Kantian perspective.

Capra cites Goethe and develops his case relative to the theories of Kant, noting that he cited organisms as self-reproducing, self-organizing wholes:

In a machine, according to Kant, the parts only exist for each other, in the sense of supporting each other within a functional whole. In an organism, the parts also exist by means of each other, in the sense of producing one another. We must think of each part as an organ … that produces the other parts (so that each reciprocally produces the other) … Because of this, (the organism) will be an organized and self-organizing being. (Capra, 1996: 21-2)

This is an interesting interpretation of Kant’s position. Capra (a new science theorist) is essentially concerned to promote a case—and he has annexed Kant to that. In order to understand the significance of this, it is necessary to refer to Abrams (1953). Abrams notes:

To make intelligible to ourselves the organic existences in this phenomenal world, we are constrained to view them, not as a system of efficient causes but as “natural purposes”, that is, as though organisms were developing towards ends which are inherent in the organism itself … As the fruit of the centuries endeavors, then, Kant formulates the view of a natural organism as immanently but unconsciously teleological, a “selforganizing being.” (Abrams, 1953: 208)

However, it is fair to say that these observations—constructions of Kantian theory (by Abrams and Capra)—do not present the entire picture. They present a feature of self-organizing causality, which Kant defined as intrinsic objective finality (Juarrero, 1999). For instance, the description of the tree “in the genus, now as effect, now as cause, continually generated from itself and likewise generating itself, it preserves itself generically” (Juarrero, 1999: 46, citing Kant, 1982). Kantian theories accepted the possibility of self-organization but this cannot be interpreted in mechanistic terms, as it incorporates both antecedent and regressive modes of causal progression; and hence, “Kant reasoned that the selforganization of nature ‘has nothing analogous to any causality known to us’” (Juarrero, 1999: 47, citing Kant, 1982). Juarrero notes that Kantian theorization presented this problematic feature by an appeal to the “supersensible” and thereby the feature of conceiving of self-organization in terms of Newtonian causal properties is displaced to the level of a problem, which is capable of solution in the “supersensible” (or nonphenomenal world).

It was perhaps discrete in the Aristotelian perspective that entelechy was a feature of metaphysical interpretation: teleological explanations tend to relate to entities that are alive and are capable of perception as having vitality or soul. That aspect seems to have emerged in a different vein of expression with the Kantian theorization, which displaces the realization of known theories of causation and organic self-organizing properties to a supersensible category.

Juarrero notes that Kantian forms of causal explanation agree with Aristotelian, in that they posit the need for extrinsic forces as a necessity in causal change. That said, a “supersensible” explanation of causation, which explains this feature of causal properties as an “impasse (which) is due to a limitation of reason” (Juarrero, 1999), facilitates a conception of self-organizing causality that, I would suggest, is metaphysical rather than phenomenal. This displaces the issue of reconciling Aristotelian theories of causality with ideas of self-cause (which Aristotle rejected). In that sense, Kant may be said to have suggested a mode of accounting for self-organizing features of organisms, which avoided a conflict between Newtonian and Aristotelian accounts of nature.

Abrams (1953) notes that “(to) Goethe and to other aesthetic organologists (it) proved irresistible to make such a purely internal teleology (Kant’s) a constitutive element in living nature.” With Goethe and Capra—representative of tendencies of the new science—the mechanism of causal properties linking essence to matter is represented explicitly as an aspect of an encompassing epistemology (constitutive philosophy). That is to suggest a phenomenal theory of self-causation by implication, as the new science theorizations view the internal teleology as a holistic feature relative to which the divides of intrinsic and extrinsic features of matter (and hence of causation) are blurred.

The shift of ideas with Capra—and Goethe—is to impute a reconstrued Kantian phenomenology to a universalistic status of epistemological authority, without the subtle attachments that the particular notions of self-organization theory had in Kantian theorization. With Kant the limitations of epistemology were embedded as an aspect of ontology. In an alternate theorization, which conceives of self-organization (including inadvertently Kantian causation) as constitutive philosophy, the realms of ontology, which deals with metaphysics, are incidentally absorbed within an extended claim for a constitutive philosophy of self-organization.


It is in this sense that an influential theorist (relative to our management theorizations) of the new science, Capra, encompasses ontology within an epistemic frame. The bounds of ontology were prescribed, at least in terms of what we could scientifically define within Kantian theorization. An extended epistemology of self-organization takes the Goethean constitutive philosophy and extends its epistemological certainties. That is to extend the limits of our knowledge, or at least our claims to certain kinds of knowledge. But it is rather like extending the foundations of a palace on to the ocean. Capra’s theorization relates partly to what we can in some sense lay claim toward verification in epistemological terms; in other senses it goes beyond this. It is one thing to speak of epistemologically certain categories of knowledge relative to certain features of new science theories related to matter and motion; it is less easily possible to extend these principles toward social aspects of organization, which involve complex relationships of belief structure (ontological patterns). Issues of debatable theory relative to scientific knowledge (episteme) extend toward terrain that involves the question of the extensibility of such knowledge to (for instance) realms of social psychology (e.g., Goldstein, 1994; Stacey, 1996).

The tendency toward the extension of the epistemic foundations of new science theorization also may be construed as implying an account of complex or interlevel causality as being a feature of qualitative transformation at bifurcation points (Juarrero, 1999: 129, following Bohm). That emphasizes an interpretation of the transformative aspects of the selforganizing nature of new science phenomena (such as the Bénard equation), in terms that are not purely quantitative. Such interpretation shifts the ground toward an ontological foundation, which could support an account of causality, which encompasses recursive causality. This acts as an underpinning basis for an extension of self-organization theory to the nature of mental processes (Juarrero, 1999; Thelen & Smith, 1994). My view is that this strong theory of new science theorization represents an account of the significance of new science theorization, and especially of dissipative systems, which expresses itself as a cognitive mode of theorization. That tends to act as a further mode of ontological entrenchment of new science theorization, and a basis for metaphoric extension toward social and managerial realms; those constituting a macrocosm of the heightened construction of new science epistemology. By virtue of this strong epistemology, a bedrock is constructed toward extending new science premises to social theorization—as by the mechanism of analogy. In these types of account, both complex causality and the zone of interpretation of self-cause attributed toward the supersensible by Kant are inferred as the basis of a unified form of epistemic and ontological theorization. These types of theorization (Juarrero, 1999; Thelen & Smith, 1994) are more involved and “scientific” than Capra’s account, but my argument is that they deal with an attempt to entrench new science theorization as a constitutive theorization at a high academic level, which Capra equates with at the level of popular academic science. Thereby I would argue that both kinds of academic enterprise rally on that focal point.

Cassirer (1953) extends the Kantian schemata to a primeval state of consciousness, and thus encompasses a realm of myth as a primeval state of human evolution. In a certain sense, what Cassirer achieves as a conscious exercise, the new science authors achieve by allying a new form of scientific phenomenology (new science epistemologies) with the suggestion of a nonphenomenal theory of self-cause (Kantian and Romantic organicism). Capra evades the caveat of Kant to the limits of our knowledge—represented in his expression of self-organization as an internal teleology)—and thereby extends a synthesis of theories (which include those of autopoiesis and the new sciences) to the realm of ontology or metaphysics. By implication, it must so extend because it is a universalistic theory with no extraneous ideal realm consciously (unlike Kant’s own). The new sciences thereby extend the Kantian (and Gothean) intrinsic terminology to the status of a constitutive theory of nature (intrinsic and extrinsic teleology) and thereby admit self-cause to the realms of the sensible. Accounts of the social realms—including management theorization based on new science analogies—arguably follow this tendency, which Capra exhibits in a purer form.

In pragmatic terms, the “sensible” form of admission to areas of management thought is to argue that the new sciences may be used in a utilitarian fashion by management, as techniques or methods that may then be “harvested”—the wild wheat of chaos is thereby progressively reduced to a tool of management enterprise. This pragmatic bias tends to follow tendencies toward lists of precepts (see, for instance, Kelly & Allison, 1999, which utilizes the concept of “competitive advantage” derived from Porter and related writings). However, the metaphysical aspect, which is alluded to in the attempts to tie the new sciences to the heritage of Kantian (and pre-Kantian) theorization, is to argue that the new science metaphor has an intrinsic value, which leads to its being an immanent aspect of social organization and human order. In that sense, the human social realm is viewed as an organic feature, no less a selforganizing property than a tree or a cosmos. It may be conceptually conceived (as a semantic entity), but it is not thereby conceived in separateness from the rest of creation. In that regard, the holism has a mythic aspect.

Earlier schools—such as Stacey at Hertfordshire—represent these tendencies in part, in this case deploying psychological theories (Klein and Winnicott) to affiliate the complexity paradigm to psychoanalytic perspectives and thereby give intellectual depth to the universalistic claims (epistemic authority). The pragmatic blend may be mixed with alternative forms of popular theorization (such as reliance on visual, right-brainorientated models, Sanders, 1998). An early theorist, Wheatley (1992), deploys an emphasis on values, which I argue represents an attempt to relocate the social praxis within a cosmological origin. That tendency may also be felt at an explicit level in recent accounts (Lewin & Regine, 1999). Intellectually, the feeling is one of “faddishness” or a mixture of discourses. It is important to remember that prototypical complexity theories—which emphasized cybernetic theories—find expression in the work of figures such as Stafford Beer and Hampden-Turner. Also, the aspect of intrapolitical conflict and uncertainty, which has extended from chaos to complexity theories (see, for instance, Stacey’s theories of the shadow organization, 1996), is a feature of processual theories of management. These links underpin the recent complexity enterprise and give it a mode of expression, which may be conceptualized in terms of hybrid theorization of those schools. Those (more mainstream) schools of thought are therefore advanced indirectly (and, I argue, also display symbolic form).

Contextually, the utilization of symbolic discourse as a mode of interpretation of a shift in Zeitgeist augments the contemporary capacity of metaphor (of whatever kind, including “management” metaphors) to address an epistemic transition through a liaison with symbolic form and the cosmological affinity of the same (Ricoeur). This may be read in terms of shifts in a societal values realm from the axis of subconscious modes of symbolic variation (Jung, Von Franz). In philosophic terms, this section has expressed a correlation between philosophic trends and the readmission of a perspective of self-cause by virtue of an appeal to the arguments of Kantian and German Romanticism, which extension of organicism also infers a constitutive philosophy capable of encompassing both phenomenal and nonphenomenal realms (as Kant defined them). This suggests a philosophical bridge to the arguments of mythic structures suggested in the article.


One way of conceiving of the work of the new science theorists is relative to a modified adoption of Hegelian dialectic. I suggest that the Hegelian aspect of dialectical progress tends to conceive of the Kantian phenomenological structure in terms that actualize the noumena within a historical evolution, in terms of a progressive series of idealizations. These idealizations form a metaphysical byproduct of the conscious agenda of these theorists—that agenda may be conceived in terms of reconceiving of the relations between nature and reason. The axis of the new science theories is to promote a mode of scientific explanation of social realms that attunes toward nature at a level of identification that is distanced from the current rational context as promoted within post-Aristotelian epistemology. That attunement may be loosely interpreted as “holistic.” The holistic values draw on the roots of science before the tree of science branched away from its associations with myth.

I would argue that this materialization (of symbolism) could be conceived of as equivalent to the Kantian a priori schemata. Something of a direct demonstration of this theorization may be suggested relative to the mythic archetypes that Hillman perceived as epitomized in the classical art of memory. Hillman (1978, discussing Yates, 1966) notes:

Using the terms of today, we might translate this art (presentation of classical mythic themes) as a method for presenting the organization of the collective unconscious—and consciousness too—according to archetypal dominants. The archetypes would correspond to divine imaginal forms used as Aristotelian or Kantian conceptual categories. Rather than logical or scientific laws, mythical figures would provide the a priori structures within the caverns and dens of the measurable imagination. All psychic events might be placed in meaningful coherence by means of these mythical structures. In fact the categories of logic and number, of science and theology, could themselves be reduced (i.e. led back) to more basic metaphors of myth. (Hillman, 1972: 176-8)

Hillman conceives of the mythic archetypes, or divine imaginal laws, as antecedents of numeric archetypes. It is a matter of conception, Jung conceiving of number as an “archetype of order.” Relative to our present analysis, it may be argued that a shift in rational context is a reformation of the nature of the archetypal relations within the collective unconscious; in this case toward the advent of a stress on mythic archetypes that underwrite symbolic form. Hence, it is possible to suggest that the present tendency in social thought toward quantification may be distinguished from the mythic symbolic mode, and that this dichotomy partially underpins the current distinctions between qualitative and quantitative modes as evinced in distinctive forms of management theorization.

It might be argued that our more specialized interpretation of symbolism looks toward the status of the symbol at the apex of modes of formation of consciousness (Cassirer); whereas the extract from Hillman emphasizes the generality of the symbolic process as an aspect of the encapsulation of reality by language. That is a trifle like Eliade’s function of the sacred among the profane world, resonant with echoes of a former mythic sensibility, a sensibility associated with language formation (Cassirer) but capable of being tapped on in archetypal reconfiguration (Jung and Hillman). A more distinct form of construction of the symbol emphasizes the mythic state, in which transcendent function the symbol covertly expresses constellations of ideas, which are incompatible with current mentalities. My argument is that this can be read as exceeding the current schematic modes of expression embodied in the prevalent management epistemologies. What the new science theorists mean in terms of our current consciousness is, I argue, less vital, and less explicative of correlations with other theorists, than is their symbolism construed as a mode of mythopoiesis.

Can we therefore describe this as a movement from a logical to charismatic mode of rationality?8 Weber described charisma as a mode of expression of leadership, and the new sciences and related theorizations are clearly related to precepts suggested to managerial elites. If an increasing monopolization of mental space will accompany a shift in discursive thought toward a bicameral mentality (Jaynes, 1976), and if the new science theories of management (as suggested) are covert mythological structures, expressing these themes, could it be suggested that an invasive symbolic mentality also had features of sensibility akin to the modes of dominance suggested by bicamerality?

Also, charismatic forms of leadership may be linked with evolving modes of “rationality.” Weber explained the origins of charismatic leadership in economic terms relative to the drive of Protestantism: its creation of a distinctive “rationality,” not induced by ritual (Durkheim, 1975) but by an “inner tension”—this emerged from the prior rationality of a more generic nature that emphasized the sacral (Gellner, 1992: 48-51).

On this account, an evolving charismatic leadership has affinities with antecedent forms of ritualistic compulsion. New science and related theorizations suggest a mode of revision of a contemporary rationality, which exploits an admixture of mythic and quantitative exemplars. Science thus inveigles the charismatic into our conception of what constitutes rationality. Charisma in this sense is the hidden face of a shift in the dialectic between reason and nature. Ritual supplements that aspect of charismatic revival; it provides a spiritual counterpart to the establishment of sacralization in charismatic forms of leadership. Hence, the selective transformation of aspects of rationality, as defined by prior management theorization—of the classical school, for instance—that emphasized planning or contingency-related approaches. These are transmogrified relative to the enhanced charisma of the manager. In that context, the leadership potential of the manager is actualized as a semi-divine or animalized form—either an explicit form, such as the butterfly leader (Bergquist, 1993), or an abstract expression of that form (Stacey’s archetype, 1996) that encapsulates the range of choice permitted within the latitude of scientific theory.

If a society driven by ritual is unreflective (Durkheim, 1975), rationality is then a mode of mapping an inner space whose nature we define as thinking but is in fact our sense of consciousness (Jaynes, 1976). A shift in rationality is in effect a shift in the balance between reflectivity and consciousness. A shift from a predominantly logical to a charismatic mode of rationality might be expected to engender a shift in discursive thought toward an increased monopolization of our inner space (consciousness) by symbolic images (the new science symbolism). The mental coordinates or auditory equivalents of these images are expressed as precepts— “commands.” In effect, the new science theorization of management becomes like a bicameral priesthood—it legitimizes and sanctifies the use of power in particular contexts at a level that has varying levels of consciousness. The deployment of that power may be a form of ritualistic compulsion; in that sense it represents the secular instantiation of the recipes of an academic elite.

The legacy of the Reformation was to channel the rationality embedded in Christian development throughout the Middle Ages into a form that exaggerated the emergent individualism. That individualism was present in the disassociation of spirituality from secular authority and later pronounced with the recrudescence of forms of rationalism such as Averroism in the Middle Ages (Murray, 1978; Watt, 1996; Zweig, 1970). This gathered force with the rise of science in the Enlightenment and with the use of reason as a mode of emancipating man from nature, for example as displayed in the Cartesian perspective. It is the sense of an increasing estrangement or duality of man and nature that perhaps lies at the heart of the mythic impulse to resolve or ameliorate. It is, however, arguable that the mythic impulse is a communal one and not a feature of the expansion of the individual consciousness, but rather an increased focusing of certain patterns of thought, seized by mythic images, within the space of consciousness.

The new science management theories seem to encourage an incipient charismatic rationality, which is perhaps approximating to a shift in transcendentalism against the social projection of Christianity in the Enlightenment project—against the universal extension of individualism as an ideal. That is related to the attempt to encompass human action in scientific models. Individuality tends to be depicted in terms that enclose it within certain governing frameworks; those permit individuality consistent with the overarching thematic structures. Various new science and related theories do seem to broach the issues related to determinism, and some claims are made for the two being reconciled in complexity theory (Tsoukas, 1998). My view is that the issues are shifted toward symbolic rather than analytic resolution. Hence, the symbolic discourse tends to suggest ancient patterns of psychological explication (creation myths) as a solution to a very modern problem in management thought.


  1. This article is based on “Janusian mirror: The value of the metaphoric perspective to the discussion of western epistemology,” paper presented at a conference on Bergson and the Social Sciences, Longhirst Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland, UK, April 16-18, 2000.

  2. The term is used in the sense of physiological experience of a heightened nature, for example of the image or sound as a point of causation in consciousness.

  3. As represented by Hertfordshire (Griffin et al., 1998). That tendency can be perceived more loosely in theorists such as Wheatley and Kellner-Rodgers (1996) and Battram (1998). The constructivism tends to be based around an affiliation with Shotter and has “a dialectical emphasis upon both our making of, and being made by, our own social realities” (Griffin et al., 1998: 323).

  4. See the account of the Cauldron of Rebirth in the Mabinogion.

  5. Von Franz (1995) cites affinities with the theories of George Gammow (to the effect that the universe arose from a fiery gas nebula).

  6. Von Franz notes: “I know of no primitive myth, which conceives consciously of no beginning. One could say that if there is no beginning it is because the people have not thought about it” (Von Franz, 1995: 220).

  7. Enuma Elish: Tiamat—monster goddess—slain by Marduk (Sumerian myth).

  8. Bicamerality envisages the evolution of western consciousness from a heritage in which the brain was essentially split and one half acted as a god-like initiator of actions. There is further discussion of this in the original version of this article (see note 1).