Affiliated Organization

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


In this paper, I illustrate how closely information management is rooted in the philosophical tradition of objectivism. I then address my second goal which is to probe the question of whether or not objectivism provides a sound and solid foundation for information management. With these goals in mind, I first explain what objectivism is for which I extend this philosophical tradition with microeconomics, one of its most influential elaborations. I subsequently illustrate how deeply information management and the adjacent field of knowledge management have been affected by objectivist thinking. Objectivism has determined the domain, rationale, definition and goal that are commonly ascribed to information and knowledge management as well as the definitions of their core concepts information, knowledge, communication and learning. Moreover, information and knowledge management show a deep appreciation for the market form of organizing, as suggested by microeconomics. Being an influential theory means that the underlying theoretical assumptions get internalized into people’s belief systems, which can then become an established ideology. As a result, these assumptions help frame what the organizational challenges are and how to manage them. Summarizing this paper, Table 1 therefore, includes the objectivist and related economic assumptions upon which information management has been built. Finally, I return to the foundation question. With objectivist economics, information management has chosen a theoretical basis that has ironically proven to be incapable of dealing with the very core of its existence: information. Stigler’s 1961 observation still applies: “[Information] occupies a slum dwelling in the town of economics” (in Babe, 1994: 49). Objectivism and economics are and will remain helpful in information management, but need to be complemented by subjectivist theories that seek their contribution in the problems objectivism and economics cannot solve (see the next PrimaVera paper).