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Academic arrhythmia: Disruption, dissonance, and conflict in the early-career rhythms of CMS academics

Bristow, Alexandra; Robinson, Sarah; Ratle, Olivier


Alexandra Bristow

Sarah Robinson


Starting a career on the margins of the neoliberal business school is becoming increasingly challenging. We contribute to the understanding of the problems involved and to potential solutions by developing a theoretically informed approach to the rhythms of academic life and drawing on interviews with 32 critical management studies (CMS) early-career academics (ECAs) in 14 countries. Bringing together Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis (and his concepts of polyrhythmia, eurhythmia, and arrhythmia); Zerubavel’s sociology of time; and identity construction literature, we examine the rhythm-identity implications of the recent higher education changes. We show how the dynamics between the broader pressures, institutional strategies, and our interviewees’ attempts to reassert themselves are creating a vicious circle of arrhythmia: a debilitating condition characterized by rhythmic disruption, dissonance, and conflict. Within the circle, identity insecurity and regulation, CMS ECAs’ identity work, and arrhythmia are mutually co-constructive, so that it is hard for individuals to break out. We consider the possibilities and limitations of individual coping strategies, and drawing out lessons for business schools, advocate for more collective and structural solutions. In so doing, we contribute to the reimagining of business schools as more eurhythmically polyrhythmic places where ECAs of all intellectual orientations have the time to learn and develop.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jun 1, 2019
Journal Academy of Management Learning and Education
Print ISSN 1537-260X
Publisher Academy of Management
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 2
Pages 241-260
APA6 Citation Bristow, A., Robinson, S., & Ratle, O. (2019). Academic arrhythmia: Disruption, dissonance, and conflict in the early-career rhythms of CMS academics. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 18(2), 241-260.