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Resistance as institutional entrepreneurship in unsettled times: The case of early-career academics in critical management studies

Bristow, Alexandra; Ratle, Olivier; Robinson, Sarah


Alexandra Bristow

Sarah Robinson


In this paper we respond to the subtheme’s call by presenting an empirical study of one important group of university stakeholders, namely early career academics (ECAs), the future of the profession. The purpose of this paper is to explore how this group of academics understand and negotiate their careers in the light of their employers’ increasing emphasis on evaluations, accreditation, rankings and other demands of the increasingly managerialist and neoliberal universities (Clarke et al., 2012; Deem and Brehony, 2005; Butler and Spoelstra, 2012; Mingers and Willmott, 2013). We consider this group to be crucial in shaping the way forward for the profession (Laudel and Gläser, 2008) and so aim to understand how ECAs respond to the demands placed on them in all aspects of their work, but specifically in teaching and research which are increasingly affected by audit culture (Strathern, 2000; Hayes and Wynyard, 2002). We are therefore interested in exploring to what extent these ECAs accept, question and resist these demands and how they articulate and justify these choices in forming their career strategies. We hope that an account of their experiences will provide pointers to thinking about ways of doing things differently in order to avoid the negative effects of evaluations, accreditations and rankings on the development of the new generation of academics
In so doing, rather than emphasising ECAs’ marginality, degradation or powerlessness, we instead consider their agency to resist in a great variety of ways and thus we explore, through their experiences what hope they bring to the safeguarding of the integrity of our profession. We therefore use the theoretical lens of institutional entrepreneurship to explore the ability of this group to initiate and sustain responses to potentially oppressive forces. In order to tease out such responses, we focus, in particular, on ECAs in Critical Management Studies (CMS) – a field with an ethos of non-performativity, and non- or anti-managerialism (Parker, 2002; Alvesson et al., 2009; Fournier and Grey, 2000) and thus in overt opposition to the performative, managerialist drive of the ‘new higher education’ (Jary and Parker, 1998). In addressing the research questions posed above the paper analyses the findings from a study of approximately 30 CMS ECAs at UK business schools.


Bristow, A., Ratle, O., & Robinson, S. (2014, July). Resistance as institutional entrepreneurship in unsettled times: The case of early-career academics in critical management studies. Paper presented at EGOS 30th Colloquium, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name EGOS 30th Colloquium
Conference Location Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Start Date Jul 3, 2014
End Date Jul 5, 2014
Acceptance Date Jul 1, 2014
Publication Date Jul 3, 2014
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords early career academics, ECAs, management studies
Public URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : EGOS 30th Colloquium