critical performativity

From the most recent issue of the journal Human Relations, here’s a piece on performativity and management by Spicer, Alvesson and Kärreman.  The piece makes  links between the area of critical management studies (CMS) and performativity.


We argue that critical management studies (CMS) should be conceptualized
as a profoundly performative project. The central task of
CMS should be to actively and pragmatically intervene in specific
debates about management and encourage progressive forms of
management. This involves CMS becoming affirmative, caring,
pragmatic, potential focused, and normative. To do this, we suggest
a range of tactics including affirming ambiguity, working with
mysteries, applied communicative action, exploring heterotopias and
engaging micro-emancipations.

And, here’s another piece by Adler, Forbes and Wilmott summarizing CMS, from the Academy of Management Annals.

Written by teppo

April 4, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Posted in uncategorized

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I wish that the CMS group was more active in linking their performative theories and publications with actual (not quite) “management training”. I’d also love to see some of these great minds put themselves into the conversation over at HBR about the values of business schools.

    I like affirmative ambiguity as much as the next scholar, and I’d like to see more ways to use it effectively in the world of (non-academic) practice. Do you know if this is happening anywhere? Am I asking for too much?

    They’d be quite an addition to the progressive organizations movement….


    CV Harquail

    April 4, 2009 at 9:17 pm

  2. CV: I think the positive psych stuff in essence is a variant of the same ethos (as suggested by the above Human Relations article) — though perhaps closer to practice in some ways.



    April 4, 2009 at 11:28 pm

  3. Alas, if only that were true…

    But probably the most stinging and important critique of the POS approach is the way it virtually ignores issues of power and control. Sure, it’s oriented towards positive, “humanistic” values, but takes a narrow, parochial view of what’s in the way of getting there, imho.

    The image that comes to mind for me is “looking through rose colored glasses, you can’t even see dominance, hegemony, marginalization, corporatization, objectification,the oppressive construction of the organizational subject, etc.

    Many POS approaches/scholars don’t even know what hegemony is, much less how to address it in organizations, industries and society. Not to harsh on the movement,… I’m not the only one with this concern of course, and I’ve been glad to see others publish fuller critiques.

    On the other hand, the CMS folks are often criticized for being so much buzzkill, without a clear positive vision and a can-do attitude.It does raise an interesting question, then…. what would a POS/CMS movement look like? Would they then both be more effective?


    cv harquail

    April 5, 2009 at 2:02 pm

  4. Well, I must admit that neither POS nor CMS really resonates with me — their respective agendas, IMHO, border on ideology and advocacy rather than science. That said, undoubtedly all of us have our baggage despite the effort at objectivity.

    Don’t know that POS/CMS necessarily need to unite or anything (though, I did see an AOM panel where there were some surprising efforts in this direction — well, largely united by a common enemy: economics); there’s a healthy division of labor between the two.



    April 5, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: