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Management and its public: imagining management practices

By Linda Hitchin

Abstract

This paper suggests that there is value in a conversation between science technology studies and management philosophy. In particular, the paper illustrates how a cocktail of two powerful forces in STS, actor network theory and public understanding of science, can serve to foreground aspects of management hitherto hidden. Actor network theorists persuasively demonstrate that contemporary experience involves human and non-human agents in material and heterogeneous practices. This position leads to a claim that we must increasingly learn to live in tension, as aspects of social life present themselves as full of open ended options that are come to rest either no-where or elsewhere. This paper examines such actor net work concerns through a discussion of agency and raises questions regarding relationships between managerial agency, epistemology of management and public understanding of management. In this context, publics are considered as a legitimate and powerful location through which notions of science and management are coproduced. A case is made for the value of fiction in actor net work studies of organisational behaviour by reference to literature of public understanding of science (PUS). PUS is rendered comparatively relevant here by reference to contextual parallels between science and management such as contemporary challenges to the singular naturalistic narrative, changing social status of disciplinary knowledge and contemporary governance and responsibility debates that impact on day to day practices. In making this comparison it is suggested that whilst it is not uncommon to find a mix of character traits in representations of the contingent and vulnerable human-scientist there is little space for either the vulnerable or heroic manager in popular culture. To close this discussion and offer a point of departure for further discussion this study playfully examines a particular popular fiction Eric (Faust) [Terry Pratchett 1990]. Using material from this fiction, management is reframed in terms of resonance, public understanding of business management and coproduction processes. Finally, this study stops and turns to its readers to continue imaging management and its public

Topics: N200 Management studies
Publisher: Reason in Practice Ltd.
Year: 2005
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lincoln.ac.uk:3223

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