International Journal of Action Research;
Rainer Hampp Verlag
One of the basic and for many, defining tenets of action research is contained in the “slogan” ascribed to Kurt Lewin: “In order to understand it, you have to change it”. The slogan clearly resembles what Francis Bacon claimed for experimental science, however, and also Karl Marx’ well known stance in his Feuerbach-theses. In this text I discuss this “change imperative” and relate it to its “pre-history” before action research. Most action researchers are not willing to subscribe to terms like “social engineering” but still call what they do for “interventions”. The text argues that what most people spontaneously think of as “change” may not be necessary for calling what is done for action research. Yet, the alternative is not to withdraw to a disengaged, spectator position. The change imperative raises important questions about what kind of change action research initiates, and what kind of knowledge results from different forms of change. The text challenges the “slogan” as to what kind of change is appropriate and legitimate in working with changes in individuals, culture, communities, and organisations, and suggests ways forward through developing forms of practitioner research and native or indigenous research. To illustrate, insights from Aristotle and Hegel are invoked. Action researchers are challenged to discuss and clarify answers to questions about what kind of change is produced, and what kind of knowledge is generated.