Critical Management Studies

Academic year 2017/2018 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title Critical Management Studies
Course code PHD016 (AF:261040 AR:153520)
ECTS credits 6
Degree level Corso di Dottorato (D.M.45)
Educational sector code SECS-P/07
Period 2nd Semester
Course year 1
Course objectives
The course challenges received wisdom about management and offers alternatives via its unorthodox treatment of established topics and/or its attention to marginalized issues. It encompasses the analysis of a breadth of approaches that provide heterodox insights into the social and political nature of management and its intrusive and divisive impacts on today’s organizations and societies. The course is concerned with showing how what appears to be neutral is actually constructed as such with power, in various forms, as the principal medium of such construction. The aim is to equip doctoral students with the capacity to recognise how accounts of how organizations function are mediated by the producers of these accounts - notably researchers, who themselves are embedded in particular conditions and traditions of research. By appreciating this, the course articulates a methodological and epistemological challenge to the objectivism and scientism inherent in mainstream positivist research. Disciplines such as philosophy, anthropology, politics, history, cultural studies and the humanities in general are presented as legitimate alternatives to mathematics, biology and physics for conducting plausible research in management.
Philosophy of Social Sciences ( )
The “mainstream” that dominates management studies conceives research and knowledge production as functional to the improvement of management practices in a capitalist economy and market environment. Management is proposed as a neutral task promoting ideals such as quality, competitiveness, control and transparency that are seen as “good” across organizations, cultures and societies. By adhering, often implicitly, to these views, management scholars tend to adopt approaches that seem as well neutral and practical. The methods and languages of formalization, reductionism, experimentation and quantification borrowed from the hard sciences thus become the preferred way to express managerial knowledge in a “scientific” way in order to increase both its legitimacy and usefulness. Ethical and political questions concerning the value of the ends, or even the unintended consequences of pursuing a means-ends calculus, are excluded or suppressed.
However, a different view is possible.
Management can be seen as a cultural artefact, a phenomenon that is embedded in the social and political contexts in which it operates. Management practices are social constructs around which power and interests are negotiated and political processes enacted. As such, management loses its neutrality and claims to objectivity to gain in terms of cultural significance. This shift towards the interpretive and critical dimensions requires different forms of understanding that question precisely those implications of management that are often taken for granted in mainstream management studies. Critical Management Studies provide one possible form of understanding by suggesting that in practice managerial tools function in diverse and often unintended ways related to the social and political processes that exist in contemporary organizations and societies. The interpretation offered within Critical Management Studies draws on an understanding of managerial theories and tools as mediating and reinforcing the particular cultures, values and meanings instituted in organizational practices.
Course Outline
1. Some epistemology: learning to ask the “why” question in management research
2. What we tend to take for granted: management as the natural way of sorting things out
3. Who are we writing for ?: management studies as a fragmented ad-hocracy
4. Modernity and its consequences: the scientification of management
5. Post-modernity and its consequences: management as a cultural artefact
6. Postcards from Frankfurt: management and Critical Theory
7. Ideology and Hegemony: Marxist analysis of management
8. Management as a text: the discursive production of reality
9. Masculinity and rationality: a gendered understanding of management
10. Conducting the conduct of others: Michel Foucault and Govermentality

Referral texts
The core textbook is for the course is:
Alvesson, M. Bridgman, T., & and Willmott H. (2009), The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies, Oxford University Press

the textbook will be supplemented by additional readings
Type of exam
Teaching methods
The assessment will be conducted along multiple dimensions and in several forms. The final grade will be generated by the combination of the following:
A) 40%: A written examination with essay questions;
B) 30%: Completion of 4 homework assignments followed by active participation in class discussions on the topic of the assigned homework;
C) 30%: Individually written analytical report of 3.000 words. On the basis of individual interests and/or instructor’s advice, each student will identify a specific topic/issue/theory in management studies and subject it to critical investigation.
Teaching language
  • Course with sustainable contents
  • University credits of sustainability: 26
  • E-learning, moodle platforms