Martin Parker, Professor of Culture and Organization, University of Leicester, 2016
Business Schools are the cash cows of the contemporary university. But what do Business and Management Schools actually teach? There is something both obvious and alarming in the answer. They teach capitalism.
This narrow focus results in a narrow conception of what Business Schools teach. If History departments teach about the past, and Medical Schools teach about the human body, then Business Schools should surely be teaching about organization. That is their general subject matter - exploring the various ways in which human beings have come together for collective benefit, or not. It doesn't take a genius to notice that different people in different times and places have organized themselves very differently. There are very few universals, and a staggering range of ways in which human beings have made things, exchanged things, and justified power and authority. This would include communes and the Mafia, the Amish and the Zapatista, and it is certainly not reducible to the recent invention of 'Management'. Management is a particular form of organizing. It isn't the only form, or the end of history, but it's pretty much the only thing taught within the contemporary B-School.
So let's think about this in a different way. Can you imagine studying in a Biology department in which they only taught you about animals with four legs, and ignored everything else? Or getting a degree in history based on studying a small part of seventeenth century Staffordshire? This is pretty much what Business Schools are doing. Rather like a management version of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, entire categories of organizing are being air-brushed from the official version.
That means that students have no idea about the history and practice of communes and co-ops; or the slow food movement and localism, forms of micro-credit and mutualism, or anarchist, environmentalist, feminist and communist views on hierarchy and decision making. Students are being taught that there is no alternative, that there are no animals that do not have four legs, and hence that the present state of affairs is the best that we can collectively imagine.
Hence, my proposal. Rename all the Management and Business Schools. Call them 'Schools for Organizing', and ensure that they help to teach organizers (of all shapes and sizes) something about the history and politics of organization. Then students can expect courses on local exchange trading schemes, as well as speculative future share swaps. If we are to learn anything from the present situation, it must be that business as usual is not an option. When the Business Schools start teaching about more than market managerialism, another world might become more possible.