The possibilities and perils of critical performativity: learning from four case studies

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King, D (2015)

The relevance of academic research to organizational practice is increasingly a concern for management scholars (Currie, Knights, & Starkey, 2010; Starkey & Madan, 2001), and wider social scientists (Chatterton, Hodkinson, & Pickerill, 2010). In particular there have been calls for "engaged scholarship" (Van de Ven, 2007) to "bridge the relevance gap" (Rynes, Bartunek, & Daft, 2001) and create meaningful knowledge that is relevant and useful for practice (for a debate see Boyer, 1997; Deetz, 2008; Learmonth, Lockett, & Dowd, 2012; Van de Ven, 2007; Zundel & Kokkalis, 2010). Such concerns about relevance have also become prevalent within critical management studies (CMS), with regular calls for critical academics to intervene in organizational practice (see for instance Alvesson & Spicer, 2012; Clegg, Kornberger, Carter, & Rhodes, 2006; Koss Hartmann, 2014; Voronov, 2008; Walsh & Weber, 2002; Willmott, 2008; Wolfram Cox, Voronov, LeTrent-Jones, & Weir, 2009). Recently this has been labelled the "performative turn" (Spicer, Alvesson, & Kärreman, 2009) in which critical scholars seek make their work more relevant to organizations (Wickert & Schaefer, 2014, p. 19). Yet, despite the regularity of these calls for intervention, there have been few actual examples of engagement by critical scholars directly into management practice. Without such examples, our understanding of the possibilities of engagement by critical scholars into practice is thus limited, and CMS is left susceptible to the criticism that it is more comfortable discussing radicalism than actually intervening (Koss Hartmann, 2014).
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