A very disturbing view of management studies

August 16, 1996

I read the first part of Alexander Murray's article on the development of management studies at Oxford (THES, August 2) with some sympathy. When resources are limited, to devote them to one cause may mean that others cannot go ahead - whether it be the attraction of endowments (though indeed pipers have to call tunes, as Murray acknowledges), or the use of land. I found his final argument, however, not only misinformed, but, as a consequence, disturbing.

Its burden seems to be that the subject of management studies is replete with staff who not only believe in the virtue of lying, seeking extraordinarily large salaries and engaging in unfettered competition as guiding principles for the good life - but who urge these values on the young. In my 25 years as an academic in this area I have come across hardly any colleagues who take these views. On the contrary, most of us see our subject as the study of how we organise ourselves - be it in the enterprises of economic life that support all our endeavours, or the public institutions that are so important in preserving the values that Murray - and I - care for so highly. Indeed the developing movement of critical management studies - whose leitmotif is the deep questioning of the forces that seem to be driving commercial life at present - could not have started its important function without the focus afforded by management studies as an academic subject. I suspect the values of Murray's tribe are more likely to be preserved if Oxford's standards of intellectual inquiry are devoted to the study of the management of modern enterprises than if the ivory walls remain in place.

Dean Lancaster University Management School

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