Skip to main content


Dominant historical narratives in managment education


Speaker:Bogdan Costea and Norman Crump, University of Lancaster
Date: Friday 14 February 2003
Time: 14:00
Location: Streatham Court room 221/2/3

Further details

In this paper, we will discuss what we term world-historical narratives underlying different approaches to academic management education. We asked ourselves the question, "What stories do management academics use to constitute the historical world as a matrix for social practices so that their pedagogical approach makes sense in the classroom?" However, most teachers of management would not see themselves as using a historical orientation in their teaching. Nonetheless, beneath this surface we find that there are strong narrations used to give a ground for the general direction, affirmations, theories, models, and ideologies used in any given programme. We found that there are three main narrative tendencies behind prevailing models of university-based management education: the "rationalist-liberal" framework (perhaps the MBA continues to be the most easily identifiable of these) which dominates, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of business schools. Its main sustaining thesis about the world is that somehow the present is the ideal destination of history as an effort to find a form of sustainable social order. Despite it being almost unchallenged, there are some antithetical concerns which have made inroads in curricula here and there. They are what we call the "critical-transformational" framework, and the "romantic-impressionistic" one. We use these names as ideal types; there are no such programmes equivalent to the MBA in any given school. But some of the underlying themes proposed are quite distinctive and have become established parts of certain existing programmes as well as of teaching literature (especially certain textbooks). The main contention of the former is that the order of the world of business is irreducibly exploitative and only some sort of radical transformation of it would resolve the fundamental tensions which underpin it. Its main direction is the historical future. Whereas the latter places the desirable orientation of history toward a lost golden past as a solution to the cultural and natural degradation generated by modernity and its technologies. What is interesting pedagogically is that, one way or another, these positions offer a formula of temporal closure to history. We ask ourselves whether this is beneficial for students. What would be the alternative? Could we envisage an open historical narrative for the benefit of opening up more a reflective space for students? In the seminar, we will offer a more detailed set of comments on these issues and on our understanding of contemporary management education