Social movements and organizations through a Critical Management Studies lens

Metaphor, mechanism, mobilization or more?

Authored by: Maureen Scully

The Routledge Companion to Critical Management Studies

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415501880
eBook ISBN: 9781315889818
Adobe ISBN: 9781134511235


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This chapter examines social change efforts undertaken within corporations toward changing the corporation. These efforts are distinct from anticorporate activism or activism toward increased state regulation of corporations. Employee activists, particularly in North America where corporations play a dominant role in how regulation is implemented, leverage insider corporate knowledge to propel change. Social movement theories and organization theories have been brought together to shine a light on this phenomenon, which often renders the social movement aspect as a metaphor, mechanism or mobilization. Through a critical lens, I ask, “Are social movements in organizational settings meant to be ‘more’?” Criteria for assessing whether a change effort is properly understood as a social movement could include critical explication of status quo problems that invite change, conflict, resistance of the powerful to change, redistribution, risk and envisioned alternatives. These criteria preserve the meaningfulness of “social movement.” Globally conceived Critical Management Studies (CMS) sees also the limitations of incrementalism and the need for alliances within, across and outside corporations.

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