Reading: Cuntliffe's "Management, Managerialism and Managers"

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This page is a summary of Cuntliffe's article "Management, Managerialism and Managers".


"Management, Managerialism and Managers" in Cuntliffe, A.L., 2009, A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Management. SAGE Publications, London. pp. 8-50.


Cuntliff'es main arguments are that management is a growing topic- management is not simply a job title, it is a way of living and relating to people. He argues that management theory is still divorced from practice but argues that to some extent, management is "performative" - that is the job follows the title (essentially). He also argues that our contexts inform management theory, and therefore managers and management in itself. The purpose for this discourse is to show that management can be reinvented and that our models and theories on management are not set in stone.


The purpose of this chapter of Cuntliffe's book is to shed some light about what it is that managers do and who they are. He begins by giving some definitions:

  • Management: "a collective noun used to refer to a group of people engaged in organising and controlling a business".
  • Managers: people who engage in management

Cuntliffe then explores what it means to manage something, starting from the very simple ability to do something (such as I managed to go into uni today) to what managers actually do; "they solve problems, they control and discipline workers, they make things efficient, they might even make things more humane". He argues that this is done by "representing and intervening", that is, by producing signs and texts making actions knowable and then by acting to make sure "people and things do what they are supposed to be doing".

Cuntliffe then goes on to discuss management theory and practice. He argues that most textbooks and courses focus on "what is management?" or "what do managers do?" along with models and theories, however do not equip students with the right skills or knowledge to manage. If they did, then "an improvement should be seen in organisational and ultimately economic performance". He further argues that teaching management theory does not inform practice as the theory does not "take into account the complexities and uncertainties managers face". He argues therefore that "management is not just something one does, but is more crucially, who one is and how we relate to others".

To argue this, Cuntliffe explores how management theory has risen over the twentieth century. By doing so, he hopes to show that there is a connection between management theory and practice, though it is limited. Rather, management is performative, that is managers and management are as people think they are; the words manager and management actually do something. He explains that managers are a selective group of people, distinct from all other employees both symbolically and linguistically. Symbolically, by the office spaces and reserved parking, and linguistically, by the meer fact that they are referred to as "white collared workers" as well as job titles.

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