02 January 2012

Confronting Managerialism - How the Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance by Robert R. Locke and J.-C. Spender

Confronting Managerialism offers a scathing critique of the crippling influence of neoclassical economics and modern finance on business school teaching and management practice

Zed Books | Published in 8 September 2011

£12.99 | $19.95

8 September 2011
ISBN: 9781780320717
240 pages
216mm x 138mm
Economic Controversies

In doing so, Locke and Spender show how business managers who were once well-regarded as custodians of the economic engines vital to our growth and social progress now seem closer to the rapacious ‘robber barons’ of the 1880s. In effect, responsible management has given way to ‘managerialism’, whereby an elite caste of businessmen disconnected from any ethical considerations now call the shots, sending the lives of the rest of us ‘out of balance’.

The book traces the loss of managers’ earlier social concerns, amply encouraged by management education’s transformation since the 1960s, especially in the US. It also questions not only the social ethics of the US management caste but its management efficacy compared to systems of management that are highly employee participative and dependent, such as in Germany and Japan. Today’s attempts to ‘bolt on’ ethics and social responsibility courses, the authors argue, are mere window-dressing, a public relations move that cannot get to the heart of the matter. Only fundamental reforms in civil society and business schools can really make a difference.

A unique, topical and controversial look at a subject that impacts us all.


'Everyone should read this book to see what is so wrong with finance capitalism U.S.-style. The book's expose of bad 'management philosophy from hell' carries one forward like an adventure story as it describes the academic and global diplomacy whose infighting has spread it. Most important is the authors' conclusion that it doesn't have to be this way!' - Michael Hudson, author of 'Super Imperialism'
'Timely... Incisive... and right on target. The authors mount a fierce attack on 'managerialism' and the business schools that promote it. The book should leave the professors, the deans, and the CEOs at prominent U.S. businesses nervously looking over their shoulders at the global competition.' - Prof. Louis Galambos, The Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise, Johns Hopkins University

'In this fascinating book Locke and Spender show us what is wrong with managerialism and what might be done to ensure more participative and long term approach to running organizations.' - Prof. Martin Parker, Warwick University Business School, and author of 'Against Management'

'Business Schools are one of the most important institutions of our times; managerialism perhaps the dominant ideology of those times. How strange, then, that the relationship between the two has not been exposed to much serious analysis. In this excellent volume, Locke and Spender do just that and through a combination of historical and comparative international analysis explain the complex and often malign enmeshment of business schools with modern society. Written by acknowledged experts in the area, this is an important book for those who work in business schools; but an even more important book for those who don't and will be informed, astounded or perhaps appalled to discover what goes on within them.' Christopher Grey - Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick and Visiting Fellow, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

'In a brilliant and compelling narrative, Locke and Spender trace the decline of American business after World War II to the extinction of socially-responsible management by an amoral 'managerialist' caste of professional business school graduates trained to view reality through arcane mathematical tools of abstract decision making, not through the lens of concrete relationships linking humans to each other and to the planet they inhabit. This is a truly important book . . . definitely a must read.' - H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Sustainability Management, Portland State University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Managerialism and Business School Education (1920-1970)
1. The Failure of Management Science and the US Business School Model
2. US Managerialsm and Business Schools Fail to Find Their Moral Compass
3. Managerialism and the Decline of the US Automobile Industry
4. Managerialism, Business Schools, and our Financial Crisis
Conclusion: Back to Balance

About the Authors:

Robert R. Locke is Emeritus Professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is one of the leading international authorities on the contentious subject of management, and the author of numerous books and articles on comparative management and management education, including The End of the Practical Man (JAI, 1984; Elsevier, 2006) and more recently The Collapse of the American Management Mystique (Oxford, 1996), and The Entrepreneurial Shift (Cambridge, 2004). He lives in Görlitz, Germany, where he currently actively manages a vacation apartment rental complex.

J.-C. Spender's 1980 PhD Thesis from the Manchester Business School was published as Industry Recipes (Blackwell, 1989). He was on the faculty at City University (London), UCLA and Rutgers, and published many academic articles and books. His most recent publication being Burton-Jones, A & Spender, JC (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Human Capital, OUP 2011. He lives in New York and is researching and publishing on a new theory of managing that stands on the ancient art of rhetoric.

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