Management as bunk, human relations as debunking and critical performativity as rebunking

Noel Connors, Ray Griffin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In late modernity first we bunk and then we debunk (Latour, 2004), and then we incorporate this debunking into a something akin to a rebunking (Zizek, 2011). Across the continuously bunked landscape of management we have the original bunkers of Fayol, Taylor and perhaps Weber; we have the debunkers of the human relations movement and somewhere between the bunking and rebunking we have the somewhat muddled contribution of critical management studies, particularly now the calls for critical performativity (Spicer, Alvesson, & Kärreman, 2009). This speculative paper explores a site of management where neither debunking nor rebunking is afoot. And so allows for a consideration of the space between practice and the somewhat tortured situation we find theory in; where the essence of our abstract thought has been bowdlerised by the impetus to critique, an endless cycle of bunking, debunking and rebunking.
To make this case, we draw on storytelling interviews (after Gabriel, 2000; Boje, 1991; Czarniawska, 2004 and Sims, 2003) from across the GAA, a vibrant Irish amateur sporting organisation. Analysis (based on Culler’s, 1982 approach to deconstruction), highlights the ruddy usefulness of the simple, more elemental and less contested form of management; as described by Fayol, Taylor and Weber. Indeed, across the fourteen interviews with club leaders, volunteer managers of small to medium sized organisations, we struggle to find much of use from late management theory.
The paper is structured as follows; first inspired by the bunking/debunking/rebunking cycle we assembled up from Latour and Zizek, we offer a quick exploration of the main movements in management thought. In this we highlight the perpetual academic impetus to make and identify Kuhnian (1962) paradigm shifts, large-form critical shifts in thinking, which we position as the cycle of bunking and debunking. We then introduce our empirical materials- the deconstructed analysis of stories from club leaders; a tapestry on which we attempt to demonstrate the efficacy of simple management theory over the relative ineffectuality of late management theory. From this, we adopted a critical approach and critical methods, to criticise the current predilection to critique.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Title of host publicationBritish Academy of Management
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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