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Confronting Managerialism: How the Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance - Economic Controversies Paperback – 8 Sep 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books Ltd. (8 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178032071X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780320717
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"In a brilliant and compelling narrative, Locke and Spender trace the decline of American business after World War Two to the extinction of socially responsible management. This is a truly important book ... definitely a must-read." -- H. Thomas Johnson, Professor of Sustainability Management, Portland State University

About the Author

Robert R. Locke is emeritus professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is one of leading international authorities on the contentious subject of management, and the author of numerous books and articles on comparative management and management education. ----- J.-C. Spender is a visiting professor in the Center for Business Performance at Cranfield School of Management. Now retired after seven years as a Business School Dean, he works as a consultant, researcher, writer, lecturer and generally itinerant academic.

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Format: Paperback
We all know that in the last 30 years or so that the rich have got richer and the poor have borrowed. We know too that manufacturing in the US and the UK has drastically declined over this same period and that we are in the midst of an economic crisis the likes of which has not been seen since the 1930s. It is clearly the case that the neoliberal economic model is a major contributor to the current woes. But what has sustained this model even in the face of growing evidence that it not only wrecks societies but does not even live up to its own pronouncements? In this book, Locke and Spender go a long way to providing answers. And those answers in turn point to alternatives.

'Managerialism', suggest the authors, really got going after World War 2. 'Operational Research' was developed during the war as a way of:

'solv[ing] unprecedented strategic planning, logistics, and operational problems that could not be dealt with by the methods governments and military bureaucrats had hitherto employed. Operational Research (OR) projects drew on statistical and mathematically informed techniques...that were particularly suitable to maximising efficiency in large-scale military operations.' (P11)

Such statistical analysis and mathematical modelling clearly has a role to play in manufacturing, particularly in, for example, the car industry. It developed as a management tool. But during its development it 'morphed' into 'managerialism':

'Managerialism as opposed to management means "a vast array of customs, interests, prestige, actions, and thought" associated with but nonetheless transcending the need for the efficient running of commercial and industrial organisations.
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Format: Paperback
This is the best - and by far most profound - business book I've read this year. In fact, for many a year. Amidst all the finger pointing at bankers and politicians that has taken place following the global crisis, no one - until now - has gone to the source: and no it's not Wall Street. Wall Street boardrooms are the end point, where those trained and some might say brainwashed into believing greed is good (for them) ended up.

Where they came from, how they go there - worse - how they came to believe in the math based cult of managerialism in the first place that got us all into this mess - is the real problem here. And that source, as this book brilliantly exposes with an almost thriller like pace, can be traced back to the post WW2 rise of a handful of `elite' US business schools and their legions of morally bankrupt MBA students, on whose collective and some would rightly argue corrupt watch the blame now shifts.

Of course, I do the book a great disservice here. The case Locke and Spender make is much richer than I can report in a review. The book looks globally, focusing on the impact of MBA education in Silicon Valley and the US automobile industry for example, while at the same time shedding light on the global political, historical and educational developments in South America and China and Europe that have also had to counter and deal with the US (and UK) banking system and the `managerialist' export that came bubble wrapped around it. In doing so, it challenges us to radically rethink the options available and the kind of educational system we want to create.
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In the contexts of Manchester's widely-read PCES report 'Economics, Education and Unlearning' and Cambridge professor Tony Lawson's 'Economics and Reality' and 'Reorienting Economics', this critique of the origins and failings of American managerialism, by an American historian in a position to contrast it with German and Asian practice, can be considered essential reading. By managerialism your reviewer, an elderly British scientist once subjected to it, understands the godless Divine Right of Kings re-imposed by Mrs Thatcher in the form of "the right of a manager to manage". The question is, whether management (and in particular, management of the economy) is about men or marbles, mathematical variables or numbers, command or facilitation, Hobbes's Leviathan or Christian public service. Locke and Spender explore it through the naive mathematization of management science, its subsequent failure in business, its loss of control by failing to recognise its "moral compass", the practical example of the US automobile industry, the catastrophic coming together of these in the great financial crash, and a review of the options still open to us. If they lump together humbly contrite catholic Christians and self-satisfied, exultant evangelicals when making ethical comparison with other faiths, and (in sticking to their theme) miss opportunities to refer to other histories documenting the key practical issues of Money as Debt and covert political control of the economy via usurious Reserve Banking, this does not invalidate the significance of what they have said. Curriculum reformers are already confronting managerialism, but awareness that management involves philosophical and methodological as well as factual choices needs to be built into curricula if students of business and economics are not to make the same mistakes their professors have done.
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