Edited by Oliver Laasch, Roy Suddaby, R. E. Freeman and Dima Jamali
Chapter 2: Can management ever be responsible? Alternative organizing and the three irresponsibilities of management
This chapter argues that management should be understood as a concrete set of institutionally embedded practices, rather than an abstract verb for ‘getting things done’. Management, as a discourse, a social group, and a practice cannot become responsible because it is constitutively irresponsible and actively de-responsibilizes others. It is irresponsible because management is an agent of external interests and is limited to the effective realization of those interests without regard to substantive values. In practice this means externalizing costs where possible. We further argue that management actively de-responsibilizes employees by determining the purpose of their activities for them. This renders management inherently anti-democratic, as it removes the possibility of autonomous action that would enable effective responsibility for all. We argued that real responsibility is only possible if we abandon management to focus on organization instead. Because it is not institutionalized in the same way as management, organization is more open to developing democratic and collective, rather than individualized and limited, forms of shared responsibility. We outline this approach by considering workers’ cooperatives as spaces of democratic self-determination and common ownership, fostering an expansive conception of responsibility. Without such changes, we suggest, promises of a more responsible management will be mere window-dressing.
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