• Critical essay: reconsidering critical performativity

      Cabantous, L.; Gond, J-P.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016-02)
      In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of ‘critical performativity’, a concept designed to debate relationships between theory and practice and encourage practical interventions in organizational life. Notwithstanding its laudable ambition to stimulate discussion about engagement between CMS researchers and practitioners, we are concerned that critical performativity theory is flawed as it misreads foundational performativity authors, such as Austin and Butler, in ways that nullify their political potential, and ignores a range of other influential theories of performativity. It also overlooks the materiality of performativity. We review these limitations and then use three illustrations to sketch out a possible alternative conceptualization of performativity. This alternative approach, which builds on Butler’s and Callon’s work on performativity, recognises that performativity is about the constitution of subjects, is an inherently material and discursive construct, and happens through the political engineering of sociomaterial agencements. We argue that such an approach – a political theory of organizational performativity – is more likely to deliver on both theoretical and practical fronts than the concept of critical performativity.
    • Evidence-based management: The very idea.

      Learmonth, M.; Harding, Nancy H. (2006)
      This essay critically evaluates the recent phenomenon of `evidence-based management' in public services that is especially prominent in health care. We suggest that the current approach, broadly informed by evidence-based health care, is misguided given the deeply contested nature of `evidence' within the discipline of management studies. We argue that its growing popularity in spite of the theoretical problems it faces can be understood primarily as a function of the interests served by the universalization of certain forms of managerialist `evidence' rather than any contribution to organizational effectiveness. Indeed, in a reading informed by the work of French geographer Henri Lefebvre, we suggest that in the long term the project is likely to inhibit rather than encourage a fuller understanding of the nature of public services. We conclude with a call for forms of organizational research that the current preoccupations of the evidence-based project marginalize if not write out altogether.
    • Leadership and charisma: A desire that cannot speak its name?

      Harding, Nancy H.; Lee, Hugh; Ford, Jackie M.; Learmonth, M. (2011)
      Leadership has proved impossible to define, despite decades of research and a huge number of publications. This article explores managers’ accounts of leadership, and shows that they find it difficult to talk about the topic, offering brief definitions but very little narrative. That which was said/sayable provides insights into what was unsaid/ unsayable. Queer theory facilitates exploration of that which is difficult to talk about, and applying it to the managers’ talk allows articulation of their lay theory of leadership. This is that leaders evoke a homoerotic desire in followers such that followers are seduced into achieving organizational goals. The leader’s body, however, is absent from the scene of seduction, so organizational heteronormativity remains unchallenged. The article concludes by arguing that queer and critical leadership theorists together could turn leadership into a reverse discourse and towards a politics of pleasure at work.
    • Moving critical performativity forward

      Learmonth, M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Gond, J-P.; Cabantous, L. (2016-02)
      In this rejoinder, we draw attention to some of the possible performative effects of Spicer et  al.’s (2016) commentary and reaffirm the importance, in our eyes, of the fundamentally political and material dimensions of performativity.
    • What do we mean by performativity in organization and management studies? The uses and abuses of performativity

      Gond, J-P.; Cabantous, L.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016-10)
      John Austin introduced the formulation “performative utterance” in his 1962 book How to do things with words. This term and the related concept of performativity have subsequently been interpreted in numerous ways by social scientists and philosophers such as Lyotard, Butler, Callon, or Barad, leading to the co-existence of several foundational perspectives on performativity. In this paper we review and evaluate critically how organization and management theory (OMT) scholars have used these perspectives, and how the power of performativity has, or has not, stimulated new theory-building. In performing a historical and critical review of performativity in OMT, our analysis reveals the uses, abuses and under-uses of the concept by OMT scholars. It also reveals the lack of both organizational conceptualizations of performativity and analysis of how performativity is organized. Ultimately our aim is to provoke a ‘performative turn’ in OMT by unleashing the power of the performativity concept to generate new and stronger organizational theories.
    • Whistle while you Work? Disney Animation, Organizational Readiness and Gendered Subjugation.

      Griffin, M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016)
      This paper introduces the concept of ‘organizational readiness’: socio-cultural expectations about working selves that prepare young people (albeit indirectly and in complex and multi-faceted ways) for their future life in organizations. This concept emerges from an analysis of Disney animations and how they constitute expectations about working life that may influence children through their representations of work and gendered workplace roles. The paper’s exploration of Disney’s earlier animations suggests they circulated norms of gender that girls should be weak and avoid work. In contrast, its contemporary productions circulate gender norms that suggest girls should be strong and engage in paid work. In this reading, the continued circulation of earlier alongside contemporary animations may convey to young viewers a paradox: girls must and must not work; they must be both weak and strong. We thus offer new insights into the puzzle of the continued relegation of women to the side-lines in organizations; although, more optimistically, we also point to ways in which future generations of employees may forge ways of constituting forms of gendered selves as yet hardly imaginable.
    • Who is it That Would Make Business Schools More Critical? Critical Reflections on Critical Management Studies

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2010)
      We suggest in this paper that whilst exploring how to make business schools more critical we must also turn a critical and reflexive lens upon ourselves, critical management thinkers. Our endeavour is outlined here as a ‘reflexive journey’ in which we turn upon ourselves, academics who identify as ‘critical’ thinkers, the theories we use to analyse others. Our focus is upon critical management education. We use three vignettes drawn from our previous research. One is of graduands from the postgraduate programmes on which two of us teach, the second an analysis of knowledge transfer programmes in which we have participated, and the third a study of the construction of academic identities. The first study shows the academic teacher may become an internalized, judgemental gaze, the second that what we see as a critical approach may be construed by our students as another ‘truth’ that fails to encompass the complexities of organizations and management, and the third encourages us to ask some questions about our own positions. This causes us to ask some uncomfortable questions about our own positions as critical management scholars and the ways in which we conceptualize business schools and our colleagues who work in them.