ABSTRACT Even though knowledge management scholars generally advocate explicit management of knowledge, there is research that cautions against the unintended consequences of such efforts. Some researchers go as far as arguing that knowledge and management are contradictory concepts (Alvesson and Kärreman, 2001). This paper explores the apparent double-edged nature of knowledge management by developing a theory-based framework that highlights different fundamental assumptions about knowledge and its management. This framework, which is an adaptation of Burrell and Morgan's four paradigms of social and organizational inquiry, distinguishes among a neo-functionalist, a constructivist, a critical and a dialogic discourse.

We use the contradiction of managing tacit knowledge, which has been highlighted in the knowledge management literature, as an analytical device to explore the four discourses in more detail. We show how notions of knowledge, and what it means to manage knowledge, vary across the four discourses. We conclude that all four discourses need to be appreciated, understood and represented in knowledge management research for this area of inquiry to deal with the rich and problematic nature of managing knowledge in practice.