This time next year, the School will be preparing to welcome over 500 delegates to the 9th International Conference in Critical Management Studies. Professor Martin Parker explains what the conference will be about and why it will be so important.
How can a School of Management have the cheek to be ‘critical’ of management? Schools of medicine, architecture or geology wouldn’t spend their time criticising their object of investigation. So why are some Schools of Management so intent on biting the hand that seemingly feeds them?
Management is central to the production of the modern world. It pervades factories, supermarkets, hedge funds, transport hubs, and the many other institutions – profit-making or otherwise – that govern our present age. The relentless pursuit of the ‘one best way’, in the words of the original scientist of management Fredrick Taylor, however, often ignores the many un-manageable dilemmas which characterise the contemporary world. To take a critical approach towards management, broadly understood, is not only to raise technical issues concerning efficiency – it is to pose profound questions about contemporary political, economic and social conditions.
Within the so called consensus of global capital where institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank thrive, the free-market is seen not just as a state of affairs to be achieved but, moreover, as something which will require ongoing management. This leads to the elevation of the figure of the manager as well as to the elevation of the ideology of managerialism. This in turn naturalises astronomical levels of executive remuneration, on the one hand, and the various demands for political citizens to become better self-managers in response to the austerity drive’s withdrawal of public services, on the other.
Alternatives exist to this situation and they require exploration. This is why we have Critical Management Studies (CMS). Historically, CMS has been very successful in the mounting of critique though not at all effective in the generation of alternatives. So this is why delegates at next year’s CMS conference, which will be held here at Leicester, will organise under the following title: Is There an Alternative? Management after Critique. Alternatives to managerialism can be approached practically, through the examples of co-ops, worker management and complementary currencies as well as theoretically, through the political philosophies of feminism, anarchism, communism and ecology.
CMS should be an activity set on the generation of alternatives to the dominance of market managerialism. The next CMS conference provides a site for the development of such alternatives, not least of all because their possibility is so routinely denied. Appropriately, the event takes place here in Leicester, the home of CMS for over a decade. For more information, visit the dedicated website or drop us an email.