IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

On drifting rules and standards


  • Ortmann, Günther


Summary Rules and standards are considered to be of vital importance for the functioning not only of organizations but of societies as well. The difficulties and paradoxes associated with the concept of rules and rule-following are analyzed much more frequently in the context of philosophy than of social science. In this paper, I will draw on the writings of Wittgenstein and Derrida to examine four particular characteristics of rules and standards: first, the dependence of their validity and meaning on the practice of rule-following. Second, properties that have led me to describe them as pharmaka in Derrida's (1997) sense, which means medicine or poison and possibly illicit drugs. Third, their dependence on the possibility of rule-breaking, and fourth, their being inevitably subject to drift, which is beneficial in many cases but dangerous in others. I will argue that the drift of rules and standards becomes increasingly dangerous when more processes become path dependent. This paper examines four cases as examples of dangerous drifts in the context of organizations: the drift of environmental standards, the Challenger disaster, a friendly fire case in northern Iraq, and Michael Power's "audit explosion."

Suggested Citation

  • Ortmann, Günther, 2010. "On drifting rules and standards," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 204-214, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:scaman:v:26:y:2010:i:2:p:204-214

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:glopol:v:8:y:2017:i:3:p:353-363 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Burr, Wolfgang & Frohwein, Torsten, 2012. "Regelbrüche in Organisationen," Research Papers on Innovation, Services and Technology 1/2012, University of Stuttgart, Institute of Business Administration, Department I - Institute of Research & Development and Innovation Management.
    3. Andreas Rasche & Frank Bakker & Jeremy Moon, 2013. "Complete and Partial Organizing for Corporate Social Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 115(4), pages 651-663, July.
    4. Julie Bertz & Martin Quinn, 2014. "Interpreting management accounting rules: an initial study of public bodies," Metrika: International Journal for Theoretical and Applied Statistics, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 319-342, February.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:scaman:v:26:y:2010:i:2:p:204-214. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.