Conference Papers

From neo-liberalism to green capitalism and back: Crisis, management and the business school of tomorrow

Abstract: About two weeks ago Martin Parker stood in for Simon Caulkin as the Observer’s management columnist, while the latter was away on holiday.  Well done, Martin, for getting into one of the leading Sunday newspapers, for it is still peculiarly unusual for any critical management scholar to actually make it into the broadsheets, or any ‘news’ for that matter. The critical management studies (CMS) project is maybe two decades old – maybe less, maybe more. Like with anything it is difficult to define the beginning of an event, a critique, a resistance. An event always takes place within history; a particular history of power, knowledge, resistance – critique. We never simply start from scratch. But however we should date the beginning of the CMS project, isn’t it peculiar that to date almost none of the big CMS canons have been able to establish themselves as truly public or ‘specific’ intellectuals, engaging with those public discourses which Ernesto Laclau might call ‘populist’; those discourses that are part of a hegemonic regime of capitalist relations? If CMS is about critiquing ‘management’, which Parker – in his 2002 book Against Management  – describes as today’s ‘generalized technology of control’ and ‘hegemonic model of organization’, and if managerialism is indeed so all-persuasive, having entered all spheres of private and public life, then isn’t it ‘strange’ – to say the least – that the CMS project is almost non-existent, as far as its visibility in public discourse is concerned? Equally, isn’t it strange that Boltanski & Chiapello’s now seminal work, The New Spirit of Capitalism , is one of the very first critical assessments of contemporary capitalism using management theory? In fact, it is one of the first Verso books engaging with management literature, which, I guess, tells us a lot about the state of critique today, and specifically the state of critique within the business school and the CMS project. So, on one hand, yes, it is strange that within the two decades of its existence CMS hasn’t really made any inroads into public discourse – nor has it been able to influence general critical social theory. However, what I’d like to suggest in this paper, on the other hand, is that this isn’t strange at all. Let me explain why.

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