Pursuing Formal Theories: An East-West Philosophical Synthesis Approach in Formal Grounded Theorising
This thesis develops and presents a formal Grounded Theory Methodology (GTM) construct with a conjoined philosophical approach, testing it through empirical work in historical cultural clusters. The GTM originated by Glaser and Strauss (1967) is considered one of the most rigorous qualitative research methodologies and is widely accepted by researchers in fields ranging from nursing to information science, and medicine to business studies. GTM discovers theory through systematically collecting and analysing data. There are two types of theories generated via GTM: Substantive Grounded Theory (SGT) and Formal Grounded Theory (FGT), differentiated mainly in the levels of generalisation. This thesis proposes an East-West philosophical synthesis, with a preference for Weberian (neo-Kantian) and Mohist approaches, which aligns with the author’s personal philosophical stance. Through comparisons of Western and Eastern philosophies, the viewpoint of Mozi aligns well with that of Weber and the author’s personal philosophy. However, the contributions of Mohism remain within the philosophical sphere, while the Weberian approach also impacts on methodological design and guides empirical work. Adopting a combined Weberian (neo-Kantian)–Mohist approach in GTM resolves two key paradoxes: 1. the inherent philosophical contradictions in GTM and 2. the distinctions between Eastern and Western cultural contexts. The research design comprehensively reconceptualises social theorising and formal GTM. A novel three-dimensional model of social reality is introduced using time, space, and people. This model is subsequently further developed with an innovative Four-Level Model of Social Theories: Point, Line, Surface, and Volume theories. The four levels take different positions on bipolar scales with various degrees of contextualisation vs. generalisation under the Weberian (neo-Kantian) assumption that generalisation is not the ultimate purpose of social research, but the power lies in the explanation of the social context. A Triple Triangle Model is introduced incorporating a comprehensive approach to Denzin’s (2006) four varieties of triangulation supplemented by extending observations made by Flick (2018a). The model is designed to upgrade lower level, substantive, social theorising to higher-level, formal, social theorising. Finally, a Stationary Front Effect model is introduced to guide the use of literature to consolidate theories and to evolve from SGTs to FGTs. The area of historical cultural clusters was chosen as the empirical field to demonstrate the systematic methodological design. A cluster is made up of geographically proximate businesses from various sectors that are interconnected to support a core industry to create competitive advantage (Porter, 1990). The historical cultural clusters engaged in the data collection are the Jingdezhen (China) porcelain cluster, Kyoto (Japan) ceramic cluster, Stoke-on-Trent (UK) pottery cluster, Icheon (South Korea) ceramic cluster, and Dunedin (New Zealand) heritage tourism cluster. The data collected informs the viability of the Four-Level Model of Social Theories in time, space, and people dimensions. Data analysis in this thesis focuses on line theorising by comparing two substantive areas in the time dimension that cover the entire history of the Jingdezhen porcelain cluster. The analysis of Jingdezhen data verifies the formal GTM design in the capability to generate Line Theories. Two new Point (substantive) Theories emerged through data collected during 2014 and 2015 in Jingdezhen, along with fourteen new Line (formal) Theories representing three historical periods with various degrees of generalisability in the time dimension. Development of Surface and Volume Theories is excluded from this thesis but is a primary direction of future research, which requires further consolidation with the data collected in New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and the UK.
Advisor: Everett, Andre M; Duncan, Tara
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Management
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Grounded theory; governance; innovation; historical culture cluster; formal theory
Research Type: Thesis