Anarchism/Anti-State

Did you hear the one about the anarchist manager?

By Thomas Swann

How many anarchists does it take to start a conversation about anarchism in a business school? Perhaps the most appropriate punchline is that such a conversation shouldn’t ever take place at all, never mind the number of participants. And yet just that conversation did take place, in November 2010. In fact, the topic of anarchism almost naturally surfaces within discussions of forms of organising that escape the Procrustean bed of the day-to-day academic curriculum of business and management studies; at least it does if this special issue is anything to go by. While the inclusion of anarchism and management in the same sentence would normally connote a rejection of one and a corresponding defence of the other, the study of management and radical social and political thought are not as antithetical as one might at first imagine. The field of critical management studies (CMS), regularly dated back to the publication of Mats Alvesson and Hugh Willmott’s collection (1992), has drawn on theoretical sources including the Frankfurt School, poststructuralism and various left-wing political traditions, as well as heterodox empirical research, in reflecting on and ultimately criticizing prevailing practices and discourses of management. As Gibson Burrell noted twenty years ago, there is a ‘growing number of alternative organisational forms now appearing, whether inspired by anarchism, syndicalism, the ecological movement, the co-operative movement, libertarian communism, self-help groups or, perhaps most importantly, by feminism’ (1992: 82). Despite anarchism appearing first in his list of inspirations for alternative organisation and having a history at least as old as Marxism and feminism, there has been relatively little

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