Critical management studies

Critical management studies (CMS) is a loose but extensive grouping of politically left wing and theoretically informed critiques of management, business and organisation, grounded originally in a critical theory perspective. Today it encompasses a wide range of perspectives that are critical of traditional theories of management and the business schools that generate these theories. It is generally accepted that CMS began with Mats Alvesson and Hugh Willmott's edited collection Critical Management Studies (1992). Critical Management Studies (CMS) initially brought together critical theory and post-structuralist writings, but has since developed in more diverse directions. A dominant narrative within CMS is that perhaps the most important development in its stimulation was the global expansion of business schools, an American invention, especially in Europe. Decreases in state funding, so the narrative has it, for social sciences and increases in funding for business schools during the 1980s resulted in many academics with graduate training in sociology, history, philosophy, psychology and other social sciences ending up with jobs "training managers". However, what business schools are or should do has always been debated. These academics brought different theoretical tools and political perspectives into business schools. They began to question the politics of managerialism and to link the techniques of management to neo-liberalism. These new voices drew on the Frankfurt School of critical theory, and the work of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze. Later Feminism, queer theory, post-colonial theory, anarchism, ecological philosophies, and radical democratic theory also had some influence. (See Alvesson and Willmott 2003 for a survey of the field.) The roots of CMS also came from a series of UK Labour Process Conferences that began in 1983 and reflected the impact of Braverman's (1974) attempt to make Marxist categories central to understanding work organisations. Industrial relations and labor studies scholars have joined the CMS fold in the US, seeking new opportunities for employment as labor-related programs have diminished in number. At the same time a significant strand of critical accounting studies began to develop marked by the publication of Tony Tinker's Paper Prophets (1985) and the appearance of the journal Critical Perspectives on Accounting. Contrasting with the dominant origin narrative is an account which states that, along with the contributors to CMS from the intellectual traditions identified here, there is a significant - and overlapping - bloc among CMS scholars of those who have had extensive pre-University experience as workers and managers. The inconsistencies between their experiences in the workplace and the claims of mainstream managerialism, and an intention to connect those experiences to broader explanations and theorizing leads these people to CMS.