What’s So Critical About Your Critical Management Studies PhD?

The meaning of criticality in critical management studies (CMS) has been always open to discussion and negotiation. Among others, the word ‘critical’ has been used as a reference to the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, to labour process theory, to critical realism, and to postmodern and poststructuralist approaches applied and adapted to organisation and management theory).

The CMS acronym has recently been extended, critically, as cynical, comfortable, or constructive, or clinical management studies. But it could potentially mean something else altogether. These self-reflective considerations and the appropriation of critical thinking by mainstream management (education) discourse suggest that critique may have been hollowed out, has become a mere technique or is now too institutionalised as a result of the biannual CMS conference, critical journals and even some critical business schools.

A number of participants at a recent CMS workshop in Paris noted that a lot of the research being done by PhD students under the CMS umbrella doesn’t seem to be that critical at all and would in fact fit very well within a mainstream business school. On the other hand, discussions about the meaning of ‘critical’ surfaced after almost every presentation in the Doctoral Stream at the Eighth CMS conference. Thus, the organisers think, it makes sense to gather current doctoral students researching business, management and organization from a critical perspective to discuss how they understand the ‘critical’ in CMS.

This conference, held at the University of Leicester School of Management on the 16th and 17th of September 2014, is intended to create an environment in which concepts of, and approaches to, being critical can be openly discussed without the aim to arrive at a consensual definition but rather to explore various possibilities. PhD students are invited to present on some aspect of criticality in their own research for 15 minutes, concerning their theory or methodology or something else, with ample space for discussion to follow. Each participant is expected to act as a respondent to someone else’s paper.

Academic respondents will include staff members from the University of Leicester, Lund University, the Université catholique de Louvain, Queen Mary University London and ESC Rennes School of Business.

The organisers are currently planning a closing roundtable discussion about the ‘critical turn’ in various social scientific fields to compare their histories and draw out similarities and differences.


Abstracts, of 300-500 words, should be submitted to whatissocritical2014@gmail.com by 31 May 2014, including your name, affiliation and contact details. All abstracts will be reviewed by the Scientific Committee of the conference, and participants will be notified of acceptance of their papers the end of June 2014. Conference papers in the range of 4-8,000 words will be expected by 18 August 2014.

Five Reasons You Should Submit an Abstract

  • It will bring together CMS PhD students from across the world to reflect on what is critical about their research.
  • Students will present their work to their peers and also to academics who will respond to their presentations.
  • We’ve received funding from the School of Management to support student travel to the conference, so if you don’t have institutional funding you can still attend.
  • We’re looking into organising childcare for those who would be otherwise unable to attend the conference. This will be in part or entirely funded by the conference budget. Please let us know by the 31st of May if you need childcare: whatissocritical2014@gmail.com
  • Finally, and most importantly, it will be fun! It’s a chance to get together with other PhD students and academics in a great location and discuss the topics we’re all interested in.

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