Why Power (Dunamis) Ontology of Causation is Relevant to Managers: Dialogue as an Illustration

Marja-Liisa Kakkuri-Knuuttila*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Since management is about influencing - influencing people who work in the organization, the structure and practices of the organization, as well as its environment - how ‘influencing’ is understood evidently makes a huge difference. The still popular empiricist concept of cause-effect relations as presupposing regularities is mistaken, since it forms no sufficient basis for action in new and unique situations. As alternative notions of causation, the paper discusses the Critical Realist conception of causal powers and the counterfactual conditional view, arguing that the classical notion of power (dunamis in Greek; power, potentiality, possibility, ability, capacity, capability in English) offers the most fruitful analysis of causal relations for managerial purposes. The paper presents the four ontological features of power scrutinised already by Aristotle in his Metaphysics and Physics, and actively discussed in current philosophy of science. These are the potentiality-actuality distinction, full power as consisting of an active and a receptive component, the distinction of rational and non-rational powers, and the idea of hierarchy of powers. These ontological distinctions suit management contexts not only because they allow room for new unique decision-making situations, but primarily because they imply invaluable practical advice. The relevance of the power ontology for management is illustrated in the context of the Bohm and the new Timeout dialogue. The paper concludes with a summary of the practical implications of the classical power ontology to management and the adoption of dialogical practices to managerial expertise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-472
Number of pages24
JournalPhilosophy of management
Issue number3
Early online date19 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Causation
  • Contrafactual conditional view
  • Critical Realist view
  • Dialogue
  • Empiricist view
  • Managerial expertise
  • Political power
  • Power (dunamis) ontology


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