Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

White Minds, Black Bodies; the Dichotomies of Labour at the Edges of Empire

Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

White Minds, Black Bodies; the Dichotomies of Labour at the Edges of Empire

Article excerpt


The split in Western thought between mind and body has spawned a series of mutually reinforcing dichotomies that took on particular forms in the far-flung reaches of empire. In this series of dichotomies, mind / body weaves through culture / nature, intellect / emotion, thought / action, métropole / colony, civilised / savage, white / black, manager / worker, master / servant. The core of this masculine, Eurocentric techno-rational tradition of knowledge follows a trajectory from Francis Bacon through the Enlightenment to contemporary catastrophes traced by many writers (Bauman, 1989; Horkheimer & Adorno, 1973; Marcuse, 1941; Merchant, 1990). Alvesson and Willmott (1996: 75) argue that 'modern civilisation has become progressively mesmerized by the power of a one-sided, instrumental conception of reason... trapped in a scientific nexus'. We may too easily forget that it is a local European tradition that has been globalised, a problem which Shiva (1993) has correctly identified as 'monocultures of the mind' which are not just ways of thinking and ways of living. As stated by him:

"Monocultures of the mind generate models of production which destroy diversity and legitimise that destruction as progress, growth and improvement... monocultures spread, not because they produce more, but because they control more" ( 1993, pg. 7)

For many management practitioners control and production is the core issue in management. This is why management has invented modern business (Hoskin & Macve, 1988) and it did so via the creation of what Foucault (1972) calls 'a calculable person' removed from the everyday realities of production (Postman, 1993: 141). The purpose of this paper is to examine how this removal took place and developed its particular expression in the current global economy. It does so by first delineating the racial nature of science and research and then links this to the production of empire and racial global economy. The question then arises of how this situation reproduces itself, and therefore the paper proceeds to examine the role of universities and management education.

The paper is presented in three main parts; the colour of social science, the colour of management and the continued reproduction of the system. The first part centres on the nature of knowledge, identity and the practice of research. The second part elaborates the discussion of research in terms of nationalism and gender. Finally, the role of universities as 'colouring in' agencies is examined.

The colour of social science

The colour of one's skin is but one of many possible signifiers of identity. Identity and its many signifiers have been pressed into service for economic and administrative ends via a pseudo-science in various ways all over the world. Harding (1993), in her introduction to a collection of essays exposing the racial economy of science, has pointed out that race, class and gender form a matrix of privilege reproducing its own ideology as objective science. Within this matrix, science is a contested zone, and the notions of'pure science' and 'pure nature' are no longer tenable. What is needed is a 'strong method' and a 'strong objectivity' that eliminates distorting social interests and values from research. This is as true for astronomy, physics, mathematics and the life sciences as it is for the social sciences. One of the major values of Harding's work is that she, like many other feminist and 'indigenous' scholars, places identity and the representation of that identity at the heart of the problem of validity.

Masolo's (1997:284-5) analysis of some abstractions about identity in the context of postcolonialism suggests that identity is one of the dominant themes in postcolonial theory. He points out that individuals 'could give different evaluations... of historical episodes based on how they want to identify themselves at any given time... not all formerly colonized persons judge the colonial experience the same. …

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