Philosophy of Management 15 (3):183-201 (2016)

Mainstream management scholarship has for the last half century largely legitimated its scholarship and production of knowledge on the grounds that its research is objective, neutral, scientific and uninfluenced either by its researchers or by data distorted by subjectivist human factors. However, over the decades there have been serious and sustained criticisms of aspects of this scholarship not least from within the field by mainstream scholars, eg Otley and Panozzo on grounds of the inadequacy of synchronic studies that were found to be non-replicable; of the limitations of surveys/questionnaires, so frequently used to acquire data; of abstract idealisations unrelated to the real world and on an ‘obsessive preoccupation with numbers’. Serious criticisms have been made of this type of scholarship more generally in the social sciences on the grounds of political bias. Claims to the scientific nature and therefore legitimacy of this type of research have also been contested. On the other hand examples of alternate scholarship, advocating and using mixed method and multi-paradigmatic approaches, have been published in the same high-ranking journals as has research using the mainstream approaches mentioned above. These showed a richness in the data, generally unobtainable in solely objectivist approaches. Yet despite these factors, mainstream scholarship has in the main continued to produce objectivist, empiricist, quantitative-focussed research and knowledge. Reasons for this have been suggested, at the local level, the academy, including its administration, heads of department and journal editors driven by the criteria set by high-ranking journals. At a wider level, the US government’s fright at the successful launch of the Soviet Sputnik led to demands for ‘hard’ science also in the management field. Managerialism, a dominant ideology, has been an influence on researchers’ approaches, giving managers the prerogative of having the necessary knowledge and also the power and capability successfully to implement strategies independently of their subordinates. Although these explanations may have some mileage in explaining the persistence of this type of scholarship, and its resistance to the multitude of criticism against it and to compelling examples of more inclusive research, further explanations have been sought. It is argued in this paper that deeper explanations may lie in the power of neoliberal ideas, principles and policies which have spread beyond economics, permeating and seriously affecting other aspects of life including education and scholarship.
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DOI 10.1007/s40926-016-0042-x
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