Critical management scholarship

A satirical critique of three narrative histories

Authored by: Albert J. Mills , Jean Helms Mills

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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To be perfectly honest, this essay did not start off as it is now. Our initial intent was to understand the emergence of the field of critical studies of management (csm) through examination of “its condition of possibility” (Fairclough, 2010: 10). Drawing “strategically” (Ferguson, 1984), on the work of Foucault, we set out to examine the discursive space that preceded the establishment of the field (viz. csm) and its institutional incarnation – Critical Management Studies (CMS): the former referring to everyone contributing to critical management scholarship, the latter to those who associate themselves, through their identity work and affiliations, with the term ‘CMS’. As we shall show, the distinction between csm and CMS is not always easy or meaningful. In any event, our aim was to gain a sense of the contextual influences that shaped the development of csm (Kieser, 1994; Booth and Rowlinson, 2006) in order to explain its viability as a field of scholarship. However, our attempts to gather insights into the history of the field confronted us with diverse accounts based on under-theorized notions and/or absence of reference to the problematic character of history and the past (Jenkins, 1994; Munslow, 2010). In the process, as we shall argue, such accounts end up privileging certain (Anglo-American and Eurocentric) voices, marginalizing others; grounding arguments in embedded factual claims (e.g., resting on “the past” as ontologically real – see Munslow, 2010); and failing to reveal the politics of the constructed historical account (Durepos and Mills, 2012b). In the end, we were more impressed by the narrative form of each account rather than what it had to tell us about the development of critical studies of management. It reminded us of Hayden White’s (1973; 1984) analysis of history as more about narrative form than telling of facts. It is to White that we turned for analysis of three selected accounts.

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