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Risky business : Reflections on critical performativity in practice

Butler, Nick LU ; Delaney, Helen and Spoelstra, Sverre LU (2018) In Organization 25(3). p.428-445
Abstract

Critical scholars in the business school are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of their research beyond the confines of academia. This has been articulated most prominently around the concept of ‘critical performativity’. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with critical leadership scholars, this article explores how academics engage with practitioners at the same time as they seek to maintain a critical ethos in relation to their external activities. While proponents of critical performativity tend to paint a frictionless picture of practitioner engagement—which can take the form of consulting, coaching, and leadership development—we show how critical scholars may end up compromising their academic values in corporate... (More)

Critical scholars in the business school are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of their research beyond the confines of academia. This has been articulated most prominently around the concept of ‘critical performativity’. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with critical leadership scholars, this article explores how academics engage with practitioners at the same time as they seek to maintain a critical ethos in relation to their external activities. While proponents of critical performativity tend to paint a frictionless picture of practitioner engagement—which can take the form of consulting, coaching, and leadership development—we show how critical scholars may end up compromising their academic values in corporate settings due to practitioner demands and other institutional pressures. Taken together, these pressures mean that critical scholars often need to negotiate a series of (sometimes insoluble) dilemmas in practitioner contexts. We argue that the concept of critical performativity is unable to contend meaningfully with these tensions because it replicates the myth of the ‘heroic-transformational academic’ who is single-handedly able to stimulate critical reflection among practitioners and provoke radical change in organizations. We conclude with a call for further reflection on the range of ethical dilemmas that can arise during academic–practitioner engagement.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Critical leadership studies, critical performativity, practitioner engagement, relevance
in
Organization
volume
25
issue
3
pages
18 pages
publisher
SAGE Publications Inc.
external identifiers
  • scopus:85046793368
ISSN
1350-5084
DOI
10.1177/1350508417749737
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
094e3cbb-8026-4590-a259-c76f09e43625
date added to LUP
2018-05-24 14:06:29
date last changed
2019-08-14 04:17:13
@article{094e3cbb-8026-4590-a259-c76f09e43625,
  abstract     = {<p>Critical scholars in the business school are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of their research beyond the confines of academia. This has been articulated most prominently around the concept of ‘critical performativity’. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with critical leadership scholars, this article explores how academics engage with practitioners at the same time as they seek to maintain a critical ethos in relation to their external activities. While proponents of critical performativity tend to paint a frictionless picture of practitioner engagement—which can take the form of consulting, coaching, and leadership development—we show how critical scholars may end up compromising their academic values in corporate settings due to practitioner demands and other institutional pressures. Taken together, these pressures mean that critical scholars often need to negotiate a series of (sometimes insoluble) dilemmas in practitioner contexts. We argue that the concept of critical performativity is unable to contend meaningfully with these tensions because it replicates the myth of the ‘heroic-transformational academic’ who is single-handedly able to stimulate critical reflection among practitioners and provoke radical change in organizations. We conclude with a call for further reflection on the range of ethical dilemmas that can arise during academic–practitioner engagement.</p>},
  author       = {Butler, Nick and Delaney, Helen and Spoelstra, Sverre},
  issn         = {1350-5084},
  keyword      = {Critical leadership studies,critical performativity,practitioner engagement,relevance},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {05},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {428--445},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications Inc.},
  series       = {Organization},
  title        = {Risky business : Reflections on critical performativity in practice},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1350508417749737},
  volume       = {25},
  year         = {2018},
}