Critical hermeneutics for critical organizational history
The history of hermeneutics as a term and as a practice is long and fascinating. Few methods, methodologies, or epistemologies can boast longer or more complex roots. The idea fi rst surfaces at the beginnings of institutional intellectual life, in the city states of southern Europe and their philosophical academies. It continues more or less uninterrupted with “many surprising twists and turns” (Porter and Robinson 2011 : 1) to its present-day position within academic philosophy departments and in social science or humanities research methodology teaching. Hermeneutics is usually described as a two-level practice: as a way of approaching the ‘fi rst order’ task of reading for understanding, and as a ‘second order’ way of thinking about the human interpretation of texts. This can be seen as an implicit hierarchy, in that the fi rst aspect of being a ‘hermeneut’ is a method, while the second aspect is epistemological and/or ontological. The latter became the dominant meaning associated with the term during the twentieth century when hermeneutics was framed as a central concern of critical and post-philosophies, bringing it into the philosophical mainstream from the theological and historical and considerably expanding its range as a way of thinking.