[OPE] Writing the Left out of Management Theory

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Tue Mar 11 2008 - 08:12:53 EDT

Organization, Vol. 6, No. 1, 81-105 (1999)
DOI: 10.1177/135050849961004
 1999 SAGE Publications

Writing the Left out of Management Theory: The Historiography of the Management of Change 
Bill Cooke 
University of Manchester 

The change management discourse has appropriated central ideas of action research, group dynamics, and the management of attitude change from the political left. This has been concealed by the way that that discourse has written its own history, that is, its historiography. Managerialist accounts of the lives of Kurt Lewin and John Collier (in relation to group dynamics and action research), and of the work of Edgar Schein (in relation to the management of attitude change), are compared with those found in non-managerialist sources. The latter alone reveal Lewin's left activism, his working relationship with the radical John Collier, and the likelihood that Collier invented action research before Lewin. They also show how Schein's theory of attitude change was derived from the Chinese Communist Party. Change management's very construction has been a political process which has written the left out, and shaped an understanding of the field as technocratic and ideologically neutral. However, it is not only managerialist historiographies, but also supposedly more critical approaches to organizational theory which have a historiographical shaping effect. 



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