Management Theory: A Critical and Reflexive Reading

Management Theory: A Critical and Reflexive Reading

Management Theory: A Critical and Reflexive Reading

Management Theory: A Critical and Reflexive Reading


Narrative approaches to organization and management studies are very much in vogue. Offering a new challenge to management scholarship, Management Theory: A Critical Approach exposes the subtexts of five influential texts by Taylor, Follett, Drucker, Mintzberg and Kanter. In doing so, it encourages readers to recognise the stories that management theories tell, and more significantly, those that they exclude.


There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Hamlet, II, ii, 259

I read poetry and I read management theory. Sometimes I read poetry in search of a good theory and sometimes I read management theory as if it were a poem.

The poetic texts I read speak to me across centuries of human inquiry in the words of authors who are sometimes profound and sometimes clichéd, but whatever their aesthetic quality, these texts also seem to me to speak to each other as they contribute to the social construction of my world. In sixteenth century blank verse, for example, when I share Hamlet's perception that his agonized relationship to the world of affairs is the product of his own imagination, I feel that I am also sharing both Shakespeare's intuition of the 'social construction of reality', and an echo of Descartes' existential 'cogito ergo sum' (I think therefore I am). So I, the reader, become the 'writer' of my own text: I see myself as a co-producer, with the author, of textual meaning because my reading can only connect with the life I have lived, the thoughts I have felt, and the emotions I have experienced.

If it is 'thinking' - our perception of the way the world is - that is the rational force that constructs our values, 'good or bad', then the texts that create and convey that thinking have a key role to play in our constructions. If it is through our texts that we make sense of our experiences, then these same texts become the progenitors of the shared values that knowledge-making in our communities presumes. And because throughout the twentieth century the discipline of management has had exceptionally wide-ranging influence on the thinking and living of people all around the globe, management theory texts have had a particular role to play in the shaping of communal values and knowledge. It is for these reasons that I see the exploration of meaning in the theory texts of management, and the textual strategies that might persuade readers to identify with these meanings, as an important task.

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