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The Hubris of Management

Yiannis Gabriel
Administrative Theory & Praxis
Vol. 20, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 257-273
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25611285
Page Count: 17
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The Hubris of Management
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Abstract

This paper argues that most management discourses have tended to present over-controlled concepts of individuals, organizations and societies. The paper challenges the hubris of management, the presumptuous belief that everything is, can be and must be predicted, planned for and controlled through the use of scientific knowledge. Instead, it proposes that managers are not generally masters of their own fate, let alone of their organizations or of their customers to anything like the extent commonly imagined. The myth of management control serves a political and cultural function of legitimizing the power and privileges of managers. Beyond these, using insights from psychoanalytic theory, the author argues that control serves as a defence against anxiety and as a wish-fulfilling fantasy for leaders and some of their followers. Fear of outer chaos expresses an even deeper fear, that of inner chaos and disintegration. This paper highlights diverse dimensions of unmanageability, underlining the need for a restoration in the human sciences of a concept akin to Machiavelli's 'Fortuna' or Freud's 'Fate' which accounts for the vital unpredictability and complexity of social life.

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