The traditional approach to administration and its off-spring educational administration lies within the fiunctionalist paradigm. Indeed, as Burrell and Morgan (1979) have amply illustrated, the bulk of the theoretical debate and research on organizations is accounted for within this paradigm. A major concern of those within the functionalist school is to explore the extent that the designated leaders of organizations determine the outcomes of the organization and the behaviour of its lower ranks (March and Simon, 1958). But this perception of administration presents a static one-directional view of leadership in which the superordinate or leader leads an anonymous, unquestioning mass of subordinates or followers. Administrative research and theory is looked on to serve and give support to those in positions of administrative power, thereby conserving and reproducing the status quo. Moreover, the resultant theory and research ‘invokes the unarticulated assumption that managers are both more important and more variable than workers, and that their behaviour is thereby more worthy of study and intervention’ (Goldman, 1978, p.24). Such an approach to the study of administration reflects the belief that ‘the functionalist researcher/consultant and manager are joined in a similar search: a search for predictability and control’ (Smircich, 1983, p.223). One of the foremost theorists of the functionalist paradigm, Merton, has conceded that with regard to the sponsorship of research:

Of the limited body of social research in industry, the greater part has been orientated towards the needs of management. The problems selected as the focus of the inquiry…have been largely thus defined by management, sponsorship has been typically by management, the limits and character of experimental changes in the work situation have been passed upon by management, and periodic reports have been made primarily to management. No matter how good or seemingly self-evident the reason, it should be noted that this is the typical perspective of social research in industry, and that it limits the effective prosecution of the research. (Merton, 1968, p.625)

Giddens’ criticism of functionalism goes further, claiming that its influence has been largely pernicious (1984, p.xxxi). By ascribing rationality to social systems, not to human beings, the functionalist approach does not give an adequate explanation of anything (Giddens, 1984, p.294).