Theoretical fragmentation in e-government studies hampers the further development of this field of study. This paper argues that a metatheory can reduce theoretical confusion. Ideas from the philosophy of the social sciences are used to develop a metatheory of e-government consisting of three dimensions: explaining/understanding, holism/individualism and change/maintenance. This metatheory is used to analyze a corpus of papers on e-government in both journals on public administration and information systems. The analysis of the 116 papers shows a bias towards explaining e-government (rather than understanding social constructions), analyzing holistic systems (rather than the behavior, attitudes and cognitions of individual actors) and studying incremental rather than transformational change. We conclude that the value of the metatheory lies in (1) facilitating debate about e-government between researchers with different perspectives, (2) enabling researchers to be clear about their social science perspective, and (3) developing educational programs that bring in various scientific perspectives.

Additional Metadata
Keywords E-government, Literature review, Metatheory, Philosophy of science
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2015.04.006, hdl.handle.net/1765/82067
Journal Government Information Quarterly: an international journal of information technology management, policies, and practices
Citation
Meijer, A.J, & Bekkers, V.J.J.M. (2015). A metatheory of e-government: Creating some order in a fragmented research field. Government Information Quarterly: an international journal of information technology management, policies, and practices, 32(3), 237–245. doi:10.1016/j.giq.2015.04.006