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Title: Living critical management : investigating the role of the critical scholar
Author: King, Daniel
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2006
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What is the role of critique, what is the role of the critical scholar, what hope do we have for transformation? These are questions which are increasingly becoming a matter of concern and debate within Critical Management Studies (CMS). Having grown to a size that it has gained some acceptance within the Business School, CMS is now concerned about the impacts it makes on management theory, teaching and practice. This debate, as it currently stands, is primarily concerned with the possibilities and limitations that CMS has due to its location within the Business School. Constructed around a series of dualisms, this debate sees that its critique is struggling to overcome the divisions between theory and practice; emancipatory and mundane pressures; academics and practitioners; the 'ivory tower' and the 'real world'. Therefore, the debate within CMS is in something approaching an impasse, unable to move beyond these seemingly intractable divisions. However, the questions around the role of critique are not exclusive to CMS or its position within the Business School. In fact they are key issues for many of the theoretical traditions that provide the background to CMS. This thesis will explore these issues by rethinking the work of Michel Foucault and my own practice in the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS). Starting with the work of Foucault, it will explore how his work has been read and received within CMS. Whilst heralded as an iconoclast Foucault work has been subject to repeated critique by his detractors because it relies too heavily on the concept of the Panopticon, presenting the world as totally dominated; he has got rid of the active agent - leaving nobody able to fight power; and has no normative ground - providing no reason to fight. Against these charges, those sympathetic claim that they are a result of reading Foucault without the deeper theoretical framework, of Foucault's reworking of the notions of power-relations, power-knowledge and the constitution of subjectivity. Moreover, they do not take into account Foucault's rethinking of the intellectual. This idea is taken on in chapter 4, which explores Foucault as an activist intellectual set against the backdrop of the student protests of Mai '68. These protests, the thesis argues, are vital because they transformed the territory upon which critique could be constructed, moving from the universal intellectual, on behalf of the proletariat and in the name of truth, to more localised, engaged, specific intellectual working on ones on practice. The shifts they engendered are vital, not only to understand Foucault as an activist intellectual, but to explore his work for its transformative value. This transformative value of Foucault's work is explored in greater depth in chapter 5 which examines the way we read Foucault's work. Arguing that the predominant mode is through the 'theoretical optic' which privileges understanding and complete theory, this thesis argues, for reading Foucault's work as an experience, a askesis, which one undergoes in order to be transformed. Foucault thus presents a new image of thought and struggle. This new mode of engagement is developed in chapter 6 which explores how Foucault's work challenged my practice as a practitioner in the VCS. Chapter 6 examines how Foucault's work functioned on me, as an askesis, and the possibilities that it opens of critical practice. It argues that Foucault has a critical ethos that is widely ignored in the current way he is read. Chapters 7 and 8 develop these themes by using Foucault's work to explore and reconsider my own practice running a small VCS organization. By starting with seemingly mundane practices, such as evaluation and monitoring forms and funding application forms, it explores how power functioned through these practices. By placing them within the broader framework of the transformations of the welfare state, in which socially disadvantaged individuals are taught to consider themselves autonomous, free, self-governing people, they are seen as having the capacity to fix their own problems. This auto-ethnographic reconstruction explores how I became disciplined within these practices and disciplined others. It ends with questioning the possibilities for engaged auto-ethnographic practice and calls for the cultivation and experimentation with new forms of intellectuals.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available