Critical perspectives on management and leadership Essay Example
Critical perspectives on management and leadership Essay Example

Critical perspectives on management and leadership Essay Example

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  • Pages: 11 (2766 words)
  • Published: August 10, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The text examines the contrast between the anticipated outcomes of theorists and directors, and the actual results produced by directors. It emphasizes the utilization of critical theory to comprehend this differentiation.

Critical Theory

The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory is widely recognized as the oldest and most esteemed division of Marxism.

The tradition often known as critical theory, which originated in 1923 by Felix Weil, is frequently referred to as critical theory (Seiler, 2004). The Frankfurt School's critical theory of society continues to generate interest and controversy (Kellner, 2001). A theory is considered critical when it aims to liberate human beings from the circumstances that oppress them. Various critical theories have emerged in response to the different aspects of human domination in modern societies (Gutting, 2003). Therefore, the term "critical theory" is used to represent a philosophy that examines the effective order o


f political and social modernity through internal assessment.

The main objective of Critical theory is to reclaim a significant power that has been overshadowed by present-day rational, societal, cultural, economic, and technological developments. This term emerged from the Frankfurt School in the twentieth century and is now associated with scholars across various disciplines. The purpose of critical theory is to address social injustice (Clark, 2004). It expresses deep concern for the future of modernity and presents comprehensive theories on its decline. Initially, critical theory focused on analyzing the Marxian political-economic system and advocated for socialism (Gingrich, 2000). While it generally supports progress and modernity, critical theory also recognizes the potential problems that aspects of modernity can pose for individuals and society (Kellner, 2000).

Despite the advancements in various areas, challenges such as globalization still pose significant issues fo

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society in the twenty-first century. Heilman (1998) argues that critical thinking involves comprehending the historical circumstances and power dynamics that shape our current conditions. Theory aids in organizing details and creating a coherent understanding from diverse aesthetics (Ayers, 1992), assisting us in making sense of the world. As suggested by Heilman (1998), when theory is applied in practice, it becomes grounded and applicable. Through observing and experiencing phenomena, theory is informed, leading to further modifications based on additional practical knowledge.

Similar to fiction writing, critical theorizing is the process of imagining and describing a hypothetical universe. Critical theorists have had a deep impact on contemporary social theory, cultural theory, and more for several decades. According to Clark (2004), critical theorists aim to understand the connection between social structures (such as economic and political systems) and the ideological patterns of thought that restrict people's imagination and limit possibilities for challenging and changing unjust social systems. Critical theorists stress that theory and research should serve the interests of liberating individuals, creating a world that satisfies the needs and aspirations of social actors (Sanghera, 2004). Based on critical theory, individuals are controlled by a false consciousness created and perpetuated by capitalism in order to maintain the dominance of those in power (Meyer-Emerick, 2004). Therefore, it can be assumed that this false consciousness prevents people from freely pursuing their own interests.

This dissent is only discharged if people begin to see the contradictions between the societal construction of the universe and their lived experience.

Critical Management Studies

Critical management studies, also known as 'CMS', refers to a diverse group of people who have adopted critical or questioning approaches to management. This term has

emerged in recent years.

The study outline

The above statement sets the tone for this study, as it will examine how the critical management theory of the past applies to modern western approaches to management. It will also seek to articulate the connections between contemporary society's views on management and critical theory. The focus will be on Karl Marx and Michael Foucault as critical theorists and how their perspectives impact management and leadership in today's modern western era. Marx argued that a capitalist economy, like previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably generate internal tensions that would lead to its destruction.

Just as the capitalist economy replaced the feudal system, Marx believed that socialism would eventually replace capitalism and lead to a stateless, classless society known as pure communism. This transition is based on Marx's economic theory of the relationship between directors and workers. In contrast, Foucault argued that patterns of discipline can be observed in various forms of leadership.

Direction and Leading

Scientific direction

Scientific direction, also known as Taylorism or the Taylor System, is a management theory that aims to improve employee productivity by analyzing and optimizing workflows in industries. This concept was developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor between 1880 and 1890 and was the first published monograph on the subject. Taylor believed that traditional decision-making processes should be replaced by precise methods developed through studying individuals at work.

This means that there is a high level of managerial control over employee work patterns. Scientific management is a concept that focuses on improving efficiency, reducing waste, and using empirical methods to prioritize important matters rather than relying on preexisting ideas. Today, management is using scientific management as a

way to compare and implement a new and improved way of doing business.


Leadership involves the ability to provide guidance to followers in order to accomplish the mission.

The field of leadership is still developing and has gone through various stages. It is similar to other soft sciences like anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Defining leadership precisely is difficult. Leadership, like art, requires more than just techniques; it involves the skilled application of behaviors, similar to a master painter using brushstrokes. Leadership encompasses both rational and emotional aspects, encompassing the entirety of the human experience.

The text highlights that leadership encompasses both rational and intuitive actions and influences. It is a social process that is shared among all group members. Leadership can also be associated with political activities, such as exercising power. However, it is more akin to transformational leadership rather than political maneuvering. Political processes within an organization involve members' attempts to gain or safeguard power sources.

Although political power typically originates from authority, control over resources, or control over information, it involves influence processes that enhance and magnify the initial foundation of power in unique ways.

Karl Marx

Marxism is founded upon this way of life, a logical discipline known as Dialectics. Hence, Marxism encompasses both theory and practice. Its theories are rooted in a scientific concept called dialectical materialism. These theories are predicated on specific, finite conditions, making any theory inherently limited.

Marxists utilize empirical evidence to back their theory, contending that capitalism obstructs progressive forces and fosters industrialization and urbanization (Basgen, 2005; Moody, 2003).

Michel Foucault

Foucault's research challenged the influence of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. He introduced fresh ideas that questioned assumptions about various

societal aspects such as prisons, the police, insurance, mental health care, gay rights, and welfare. His thinking was mainly influenced by Frederick Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger (Ron, 2000).

The website examines Foucault's analysis of power in society and its connection to the ego. Foucault extensively studied the evolving regulations that determine the legitimacy of claims throughout history.

Critical Analysis

Marx's Critique of Capitalist Economies

Capitalism involves the interaction between business owners and workers, with business owners representing the capitalist class and workers forming the labor force. Marx criticized capitalism for hindering progress, despite its potential to bring positive change to society. Moody (2003) argues that while traditional constraints on workers were lifted, they became enslaved by the new factory system; trade and progress were limited due to monopolization; and the government favored the middle class over society as a whole (Powell, 2001).

Commodity Fetishism

Labor Power

It is crucial to clarify what exactly has been purchased by capitalists.

According to Marx, in a capitalist economy, the worker trades their labor-power as a commodity. This labor-power represents an abstract form of human labor that can be exchanged for monetary value. Similar to other commodities, it conforms to the same laws and possesses a value determined by the necessary amount of labor time involved in its production.

The concept of labor power, according to R. Sewell and A. Woods, refers to the worker's ability to work, which is utilized by the capitalist during the labor process. In Marx's definition, labor power encompasses both physical and mental capabilities in a human being that are employed when creating any type of use-value. Similar to other commodities, the value of labor power is determined by the amount of

labor time required for its production and reproduction.

Capitalism and Power

According to Campbell (1981:34), different systems such as slavery, feudalism, and capitalism have distinct forms of ownership. In a capitalist system, capitalists or factory owners not only possess machinery and factories (capital), but also exercise control over the labor force.

The machinery in an auto devising mill is considered as fixed assets for the mill proprietor. However, without someone operating them, the machinery alone cannot generate profit. Therefore, the laborers who operate the machinery are seen as the main assets for the mill proprietors. According to Marxist analysis of capitalist economy, labor power is categorized as a commodity and can be bought and sold on the 'labor' market. This is because labor power has both exchange value and use value for buyers, such as capitalist economies or mill owners. As explained by Campbell (1981: 38), "like any commodity...Labour power is owned as a machine and is put to work" (Campbell 1981:38). Being treated as a commodity means that once it is purchased by the mill proprietor, they have authority over whether to utilize it or trade it with others.

In a capitalist economy, the owner has the power to determine wages and working hours for new employees after purchasing their labor power. They can also terminate employment if they are dissatisfied with any workers. Most individuals in this system rely solely on their labor power to earn income for essential goods and services like food, clothing, and housing. The capitalist class owns the means of production, which means that if they choose not to hire more workers or reduce their workforce, it directly affects the well-being of workers

(Campbell 1981:111).

Marx criticized capitalism as a necessary stage that societies must go through but one that could ultimately lead to its own downfall. He emphasized the importance of labor and physical effort in producing basic necessities, stating that certain forms of production are vital for survival. However, Marx's argument highlights an unequal distribution of wealth and income where some individuals possess all factors of production (capital, entrepreneurship, land), while others only have their own labor. This inequality is considered acceptable by some but unacceptable by others.

According to Marx, the labor force in a capitalist economy is deprived of their 'creative fulfillment' as they are viewed as predetermined parts of the production process. This ultimately hinders their ability to achieve self-actualization.

Exploitation and Alienation

In terms of alienation, Marx identifies three aspects that can be analyzed. The first aspect involves workers being separated from the products they produce. In a capitalist economy, workers exchange the products they make for rewards, losing any connection with the objects they bring into existence. This differs from an autonomous system where workers have a more direct relationship with the objects they create.

Marx's analysis of the political-economic system suggests that as workers become less connected to their products, they empower their employers. This power imbalance results in increased exploitation of workers, who are compelled to compete for more and more exploitation. The disconnection between workers and their creations breeds dissatisfaction, as the objects they produce become unfamiliar and ultimately exert control over the workers.

Marx argues that in a capitalist economy, the capitalists dictate the working conditions for workers. This places greater importance on pursuing profits rather than allowing workers to achieve self-fulfillment. Marx

believes that individuals need self-fulfillment, but this becomes unattainable within a capitalist system where employers determine working conditions. Additionally, Marx posits that even capitalist employers themselves face this issue since they are compelled to prioritize profits in order to stay operational. According to Marx, labor is viewed as something external and disconnected from the essence of the worker.

According to Marx, individuals in capitalist societies deprive themselves and experience suffering rather than happiness. They lack the freedom to utilize their physical and mental energy, resulting in harm to their bodies and minds (David McLellan, 2000). Marx's explanation of development revolves around the exploitation of workers within a deliberately created environment under capitalism. The workers, who are estranged from the means of production, are controlled by owners prioritizing their own profits over the well-being of the workers. This includes managers coercing employees into performing tasks beyond their job description for cost reduction and profit maximization. As a result of this alienation, individuals conform to employers' demands to maintain job security.

Foucault examines disciplinary power.

This concept diverges from Marx's focus on economics.

The text examines power and offers a new understanding of it. It sees management as a representation of power dynamics in society. Specific regulations are put in place to establish, control, and enforce certain patterns in various work environments (such as offices, mills, and schools).


Disciplinary power

The panopticon is used as an example to illustrate society. The central tower has the ability to observe everything, but the prisoners always obey without knowing for certain if they are being watched, by whom, or how many. This results in the creation of self-regulating, obedient, and disciplined prisoners (at least in theory).

This form of disciplinary power is associated with direct control.

Power is the dominant force in a society, particularly in a workplace environment. The manager's role is to follow the regulations, while the director maintains control and authority over others.

Critical Analysis on Leadership

In the process of leadership, power plays a crucial role (Northhouse, 2007). Leaders are often seen as having power in their leadership role because they exert influence and control over others. Power is the ability to influence another party (Mintberg, 1983; Pfeiffer, 1981, 1992).

According to many political theorists, such as Machiavelli and academic political scientists like Marx in the 20th century, power is seen as the foundation of leadership. Power is defined as the ability to influence others' beliefs, attitudes, and actions. Various individuals, such as priests, teachers, doctors, and managers, utilize power to bring about change in people. In the business world, there are two main types of power: position power and personal power (Bass, 1960; Etienne, 1991). Position power refers to the power a person possesses based on their specific role in a formal organizational system. For example, department heads hold more power than clerical staff in a position of authority.

Power can be derived from various factors such as legitimate authorization, control over resources and wages, control over penalties, control over information, and control over the physical work environment. Personal power, on the other hand, is derived from the leader's ability to follow. This includes influence derived from expertise as well as influence based on friendly relationships and loyalty. When leaders act in ways that are important to their followers, they gain power. Additionally, power is inherent in an individual's position within

the organization.

( Bass, 1960 ; Etienne, 1991 ) According to Northhouse ( 2007 ), the current dominant leadership paradigm is transformational leadership which involves changing and transforming people. The key elements of transformational leadership are idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration.

Critical Analysis on Scientific management

The Marxist theory of capital views labor as a production cost, resulting in workers feeling disconnected as their labor is seen as a means to satisfy physical needs. Taylor's ideas on scientific management (1990) share economic themes with Marx and Adam Smith. By treating management as a science, Taylor divided the managerial problem into stages of research, definition, analysis, and implementation.

The author's rules were fundamentally based on the belief that individuals put in minimal effort into their work and were only motivated by money. As a result, the responsibility for productivity shifted from the workers to the managers, who utilized scientific methods to determine the most efficient working methods. Once the best candidate for a task was chosen, they received training to work efficiently, and their performance was closely monitored. In retrospect, while this framework seemed like a viable approach for ensuring the success of a company, its effectiveness heavily relied on finding the optimal production method and implementing the strategy correctly.

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