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Managerialism is the reliance on professional managers and organizational strategies to run an organisation. It may be justified in terms of efficiency, or characterized as an ideology.[1][2][3][4] It is a belief system that requires little or no evidence to justify itself.[ambiguous] Thomas Diefenbach[5] associates managerialism with a belief in hierarchy. Other scholars have linked managerialism to control,[6] accountability,[7] measurement, strategic planning and a belief in the importance of tightly-managed organizations.[8]

Following Enteman's 1993 classic[according to whom?] on Managerialism: The Emergence of a New Ideology,[9] American management experts Robert R. Locke and J. C. Spender see managerialism as an expression of a special group – management – that entrenches itself ruthlessly and systemically in an organization.[10] It deprives owners of decision-making power and workers of their ability to resist managerialism. In fact, the rise of managerialism may in itself be a response to people's resistance in society and more specifically to workers' opposition against managerial regimes.

Types of managerialism

Enteman (1993), Locke and Spender (2011) and Klikauer (2013)[11] explain Managerialism in three different ways:

Enteman (1993) Locke and Spender (2011) Klikauer (2013)
Ideology The Business School Managerialism and Society
Capitalism Management Science Ideology and Social Change
Socialism and Marxism Managerialism and Morality Culture and Authoritarianism
Democracy The US Automobile Industry Management Studies
Democratic Capitalism The Financial Crisis Managerialist Thinking
Ethics, Economics and Business Balancing Managerialism Post-Managerial Living

Building on Enteman (1993) and Locke/Spender (2011), Thomas Klikauer in “Managerialism – Critique of an Ideology” (2013) defined managerialism thus:[12][13]

"[....] Managerialism combines management knowledge and ideology to establish itself systemically in organisations and society while depriving owners, employees (organisational-economical) and civil society (social-political) of all decision-making powers. Managerialism justifies the application of managerial techniques to all areas of society on the grounds of superior ideology, expert training, and the exclusive possession of managerial knowledge necessary to efficiently run corporations and societies."[14]

As the simpler yet already highly organised management of Henri Fayol (1841-1925) and Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) mutated into managerialism, managerialism became a full-fledged ideology under the following formula:

Management + Ideology + Expansion = Managerialism [1]

Two examples of the extension of management into the non-management domain – the not for profit sphere of human existence – are public schools and universities. [2] In both cases, managerialism occurs when public institutions are run “as if” these were for-profit organization even though they remain government institutions funded through state taxes. In these cases, the term new public management has been used. [3] But the ideology of managerialism can even extend into more distant institutions such as, for example, a college of physicians.[4]

Albert A. Anderson summarized managerialism as the ideological principle that sees societies as equivalent to the sum of the decisions and transactions made by the managements of organizations.[15]

Compare what the historian James Hoopes wrote (2003):

"[...] the main genesis of managerialism lay in the human relations movement that took root at the Harvard Business School in the 1920s and 1930s under the guiding hand of Professor Elton Mayo. Mayo, an immigrant from Australia, saw democracy as divisive and lacking in community spirit. He looked to corporate managers to restore the social harmony that he believed the uprooting experiences of immigration and industrialization had destroyed and that democracy was incapable of repairing."[16]

Managerialist Ideology

The managerialist society is not one which responds to the needs, desires, and wishes of a majority of its citizens, but one which is influenced by organizations. The managerialist society responds to the managements of various organizations in relation to their transactions with each other. The needs, desires and wishes of the individual are heard through their membership of an organization. Furthermore, managerialism is both a process and a substantive ideology. Managerialism says that the fundamental social units are not individuals, as capitalism would declare, but rather that the fundamental social units are organizations. Ultimately, managerialism specifically denies that the fundamental nature of society is an aggregation of individuals.[17][need quotation to verify]

Instead, managerialism sees the core building-block of contemporary society as the modern business company or corporation. To further business, companies, and corporations is the ideological goal of managerialism. How managerialism functions as such an ideology has been perfectly expressed by one of managerialism's main ideological flagships – the Harvard Business Review – when the HBR's former editor Joan Magretta (2012: 80-81) made the following stunning revelation:[i]

Business executives are society's leading champions of free markets and competition, words that, for them, evoke a world view and value system that rewards good ideas and hard work, and that fosters innovation and meritocracy. Truth be told, the competition every manager longs for is a lot closer to Microsoft's end of the spectrum than it is to the dairy farmers'. All the talk about the virtues of competition notwithstanding, the aim of business strategy is to move an enterprise away from perfect competition and in the direction of monopoly.

[i] Magretta, J. 2012. What Management Is: How it works and why it's everyone's business, London: Profile.


Managerialism in political science is a set of beliefs, attitudes and values which support the view that management is the most essential and desirable element of good administration and government. It follows that in all enterprises and services, both private and public, expertise in management must be taught by training and by incentives to excel. In the political world this may take the form of asserting that much conflict and argument are unnecessary for solving problems. All that is needed is a rational assessment of the problem and this involves gathering and collating information, listing the options, calculating costs of each, evaluating consequences and choosing the best course of action. Recent managerialism has included such devices as "performance indicators" (purporting to measure the relative efficiencies of different managers) and "market testing" (which compares public sector managers' responsibilities and tasks with those of managers in the private sector in order to assess their pay). Managerialism is criticized for weakening the public-service ethos.[18]

If one were to conceive of society as a nation, such as the United States, managerialism concludes that there is no single United States and that individual Americans should not be identified as the fundamental nature of the country. Rather, the country is basically composed of numerous groups which collectively make up the country we call the United States. The government is a part of the managerial process. The management of different groups will attempt to influence the direction of government action. Their success or failure will depend upon their ability to pursue their case and upon their ability to blunt the cases of competitors. The success of the subunits depends upon the ability of their managements and other factors such as size, cohesiveness, managerial discretion, and control of resources. Government itself is a collection of governmental units. The government is not state.[19]


Economically, managerialism is the application of managerial techniques in businesses. Managerialism in this regard has to do with the strategic approach of goal-setting. In order to achieve previously unimagined levels of accumulation and production, businesses within a capitalist economy needed a way of connecting their strategic plan of actions to desired implementations of those plans. Within an organization, the individuals at the top of the organizational hierarchy determine a mission or set of goals, which is then strategically analyzed by individuals lower on the hierarchy (managers) to devise local goals to carry out the overall mission. Put simply, the managerial standard is to receive goals from above and to create new goals for those below.[20]

There is a belief that in managerialism, organizations have more similarities than differences, and thus the performance of all organizations can be optimized by the application of generic management skills and theory. To a practitioner of managerialism, there is little difference in the skills required to run a college, an advertising agency or an oil rig.[21] Experience and skills pertinent to an organization's core business are considered secondary.[22]

The term "managerialism" can be used disparagingly to describe organizations perceived to have a preponderance or excess of managerial techniques, solutions, rules and personnel, especially if these seem to run counter to the common sense of observers. It is said[by whom?] that the MBA degree is intended to provide generic skills to a new class of managers not wedded to a particular industry or professional sector.[23]

There have been mixed reviews on the efficacy of managerialism, explored extensively in university studies of the State. Some have accepted the flaws in the theory, building upon it and putting it forth as a valid theory of the State. Others have outright rejected such a proposition, responding that – regardless of the few similarities – such a system could not be successful on a political level.[citation needed]

The word "managerialism" can also be used pejoratively, as in the definition of a management caste. Robert R. Locke defines it accordingly as:

"What occurs when a special group, called management, ensconces itself systemically in an organization and deprives owners and employees of their decision-making power (including the distribution of emolument), and justifies that takeover on the grounds of the managing group's education and exclusive possession of the codified bodies of knowledge and know-how necessary to the efficient running of the organization."[24]

New Managerialism

Managerialism – also called New Managerialism and New Public Management – is an ideology used for legitimizing the development of new organizational forms and relationships. It has been coined a practical ideology of being 'business-like’ in order to make the new arrangements work for all forms of jobs, organizations, and education systems. The ‘business-like’ indicates what is called “as if” ideologies. Managerialism is conceptualized in that it seeks firstly to explain the socioeconomic and political reasons behind why particular organizations have been developed and, secondly, to describe the ways in which public services are currently being delivered. The idea of Managerialism came to fruition when new organizational forms originated from a view that professional bureaucratic modes of organization were inefficient and could not cope with the challenges rising from increasing globalization. Managerialism, however, has not remained static over the years as it has had many different versions of its implementation. Its linkage to the changing practices associated with an agenda moves away from a purely Neo-liberal framework. While neo-liberalism uses politics (e.g. elections) to achieve its goals, Managerialism is fundamentally anti-democratic following instead management’s command-and-control concept. While using business-like mechanisms to ensure great cost effectiveness is still used as a great technique. There have been movements away from purely market based systems that were in place strictly for efficiency, to contractual mechanisms and performance measurement through audit and review. In practice of Managerialism, consumers are redefined as well. Not only do consumers have choice in regard to where and how they receive their services, but they should be actively involved in determining what services should be provided as well.[25] In new Managerialism consumers are redefined as well. Not only should they have choice regarding where and how they receive their services, but they should be actively involved in determining what services should be provided as well. The Managerialism explains public services not as production functions or firms, but as governance structures. What is at stake is not so much the ethos and practice of management as the culture and structure of governance. Here governance means the organisational culture and structure of the relationship between what Weber called legitimate domination and the self-constitution of those who are subject to it. What Weber meant by legitimate domination was justified by an authority structure, which was, in turn, legitimated by rational authority. Hence, one finds a renewed interest of Managerialism in fostering managerial leadership. But governance through Managerialism was never only dependent for its legitimization on Weber’s notion of legal-rational authority, but more on forms of rationality that depend upon, for example, strategic management, cost-benefit-analysis, efficiency in the market, etc. Although this Managerialism draws on models of corporate Managerialism as well as accounts of New Public Management, it is also imbued with the practices of self in everyday life. What is new here, is recognition of the technologies of self that individuals employ to implicate themselves in their own governance.[26] This creates what became known as “The Entrepreneurial Self”. The way Managerialism achieves this, for example, at university levels is through a re-formulation of research and science, as outlined in the table below.

From Science .....
Prof. Tina Fey’s research proved hunter-gatherers have higher levels of cooperation in harsher climate
Prof. Tina Fey wrote the most seminal research work on hunter-gatherer societies
Prof. Tina Fey is the leading authority on hunter-gatherers in the world
Prof. Tina Fey published a key article in the journal “Fancy Evolutionary Science”
Prof. Tina Fey published an article in a top-rated 5-star (A*) journal
Prof. Tina Fey published five journal articles last year
Prof. Tina Fey received a grant for 750,000 dollars last year
..... to Managerialism



George Elton Mayo "One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problems, can change our whole outlook on the work"[28]

George Elton Mayo was an Australian psychologist and organizational theorist. A former professor of Industrial Management at the Harvard Business School, Mayo heavily researched the behavior of workers at Western Electric; a manufacturing facet of AT&T. Today he is considered a major contributor to the intellectual thought process and ideas of business management, as well as critical theories of industrial and organizational psychology. His book, The Human Problems of an Industrialized Civilization articulates his collective thoughts taken from the famous Hawthorne research study conducted while at Harvard University.

Karl Marx

"Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand."[29]

Karl Marx has set many standards in the fields of philosophy, economics, and sociology as one of the worlds most prominent and controversial thinkers. Commonly known for his ideas outlined in The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital Marx has exemplified ideas of management and order with his very apparent socialistic views. Sociologically Marx has identified core interrelations between groups of people classified by class structures, and how those claimed relations may lead to the success or failures of a collective society.

Friedrich Nietzsche "To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult"[30]

A 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche heavily contributed to the fields of management and leadership. Focusing in on ideas of morality; particularly distinguishing the differences between what he labeled the, "master morality," and "slave morality," Nietzsche has exemplified the development of managerial practices through the subjections of moral emphasis and control. "He was especially interested, therefore, in a probing analysis and evaluation of the fundamental cultural values of Western philosophy, religion, and morality, which he characterized as expressions of the ascetic ideal."


The history of managerialism is linked[citation needed] to the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883). In his collection of books on capitalism – appropriately named Das Kapital (published from 1867 to 1883) – Marx writes about how when capitalists merge with other capitalists and two corporations come together, they are more likely to become diluted, and how, when that happens, those who were once wise business leaders become mere aimless managers. Marx stated his belief in his books (only volume 1 was published while he was alive) as follows: "Transformation of the actually functioning capitalist into a mere manager, an administrator of other people's capital, and of the owners of capital into mere owners, mere money-capitalists.".[31] Marx is talking about what would later be known as managerialism,[citation needed] a term coined in 1940 by James Burnham,[32] who in his 1941 book The Managerial Revolution[33] expresses his ideas on the difference between capitalism and managerialism, stating that when the owners of capital are no longer the ones in charge, and managers, relying on only principle, are in charge, then it is no longer capitalism, it is now considered[citation needed] managerialism. (Burnham's ideas, both in that book and in a 1943 book The Machiavellians, and also in articles which were published in Partisan Review and elsewhere, are thoroughly criticised by George Orwell in his 1946 essay Second Thoughts on James Burnham (first published in Polemic (London).)

Notwithstanding any respectable origins and popularity in practice, managerialism has encountered criticism.[34]


See also


  1. ^ "Define: managerialism". Over-reliance on the use of incompetent managers to administer an organisation
  2. ^ Glover, Ian (2000). "Managerialism: the Emergence of a New Ideology". Journal of Management Development. 19 (7): 654–664. doi:10.1108/jmd.2000.19.7.654.3.
  3. ^ Klikauer, Thomas (2015). "What Is Managerialism?". Critical Sociology. 41 (7–8): 1103–1119. doi:10.1177/0896920513501351. S2CID 143614196.
  4. ^ Shepherd, Sue (2018). "Managerialism: an ideal type". Studies in Higher Education. 43 (9): 1668–1678. doi:10.1080/03075079.2017.1281239.
  5. ^ Diefenbach, Thomas (2013-06-21). Hierarchy and Organisation: Toward a General Theory of Hierarchical Social Systems. Routledge. ISBN 9780415843928.
  6. ^ For example: Enteman, Willard F. (1993). "7: Managerialism". Managerialism: The Emergence of a New Ideology. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 164. ISBN 9780299139247. Retrieved 24 November 2018. Managerialism does not hold that the corporation is so driven by an organic principle that individual managers have no effective choice in giving it direction. Whether the organization behaves in an organic way is, to an important extent, a result of the management's efforts, and the direction of that organic force is something over which management attempts to exercise control. Thus, managerialism has not accepted the underlying determinism of capitalism and socialism.
  7. ^ Miller, Karen Johnston; McTavish, Duncan (October 2013). "9: Public policy and accountability". Making and Managing Public Policy. Routledge Masters in Public Management. London: Routledge (published 2014). p. 216. ISBN 9781135016906. Retrieved 24 November 2018. Accountability as managerialism [...] Hood and Lodge (2006: 186-187; Hood and Scott 2000) argue that NPM and managerialism have changed the nature of the public service bargain. [...] Thus, to demonstrate results, managerial accountability is employed with a combination of market accountability with more 'customer' focus to users of public services, and performance management regimes. The idea is to ensure that bureaucrats are more responsive to users of services (downward accountability) and report results and policy delivery to political masters (upward accountability). Ironically[,] managerial regimes have had unintended outcomes with civil servants becoming defensive about performance rather than being innovative – the exact opposite of what managerial regimes are designed to achieve.
  8. ^ MacBeath, John; Dempster, Neil; Frost, David; Johnson, Greer; Swaffield, Sue (9 March 2018). "The policy challenge". Strengthening the Connections between Leadership and Learning: Challenges to Policy, School and Classroom Practice. Routledge (published 2018). ISBN 9781351165303. Retrieved 24 November 2018. Managerialism may be described as seductive because it has an easy appeal with its endorsement of efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. [...] This seductive argument has it that schools, and the organisations in which they are embedded, need to be more tightly managed, more transparent, and thus more easily held to account by their 'stakeholders'.
  9. ^ Enteman, Willard Finley (1993). Managerialism: The Emergence of a New Ideology. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299139247. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  10. ^ Locke, Robert R.; Spender, J.-C. (2011-09-08). Confronting Managerialism: How the Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance (2011 ed.). Zed Books. ISBN 9781780320717.
  11. ^ Klikauer, T. (2013-09-12). Managerialism: A Critique of an Ideology (2013 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137334268.
  12. ^ Klikauer, T. (2013-09-12). Managerialism: A Critique of an Ideology (2013 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137334268.
  13. ^ Jaros, Stephen (2011). "Book review: Critical Management Ethics Thomas Klikauer. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 270 pp. $95.00; £65.00 (hbk). ISBN 0230238254". Management Learning. 42 (3): 355–359. doi:10.1177/13505076110420030703. S2CID 147345063. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  14. ^ Klikauer, Thomas (2015-11-01). "What Is Managerialism?". Critical Sociology. 41 (7–8): 1103–1119. doi:10.1177/0896920513501351. ISSN 0896-9205. S2CID 143614196.
  15. ^ Enteman, Willard F. (1993). Managerialism : the emergence of a new ideology. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299139247. Managerialism rests upon the notion that 'the society (nation) is nothing more than the summation of the decisions and transactions which have been made by the managements of the organizations.'
  16. ^ Hoopes, James (September 2003). "MANAGERIALISM: ITS HISTORY AND DANGERS". Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society. The Historical Society. 5 (1). Retrieved 5 November 2012. But the main genesis of managerialism lay in the human relations movement that took root at the Harvard Business School in the 1920s and 1930s under the guiding hand of Professor Elton Mayo. Mayo, an immigrant from Australia, saw democracy as divisive and lacking in community spirit. He looked to corporate managers to restore the social harmony that he believed the uprooting experiences of immigration and industrialization had destroyed and that democracy was incapable of repairing.
  17. ^ Enteman, Willard F. (1993). Managerialism : the emergence of a new ideology. Madison, Wi: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299139247.
  18. ^ Enteman, Willard F. (1993). Managerialism : the emergence of a new ideology. Madison, Wi: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299139247.
  19. ^ Bealey, Frank (1999). The Blackwell dictionary of political science (1. publ. ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 9780631206958.
  20. ^ Preston, David Seth. "The Rise of Managerialism". Encyclopaedia of Philosophy of Education. Archived from the original on 23 May 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  21. ^ Quiggin, John (2003-07-02). "Word for Wednesday: managerialism (definition)". Retrieved 2008-01-14.
  22. ^ Emmanuel, Mathew (2010). Methodology of Business Studies. India: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 978-81-3173069-0.
  23. ^ "Managerialism Explained." Managerialism Explained. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.
  24. ^ "Managerialism and the Demise of the Big Three, Real-World Economics Review" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  25. ^ Nickson, Alicen. 2014. "A Qualitative Case Study Exploring the Nature of New Managerialism in UK Higher Education and Its Impact on Individual Academics' Experience of Doing Research." Journal of Research Administration 45, no. 1: 47-80. Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 8, 2016).
  26. ^ Fitzsimons, Patrick (1999-07-01). "Managerialism and Education". EEPAT. The Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Archived from the original on 2013-11-20. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  27. ^ adopted from: Orr, Y. & R. I. 2016. The Death of Socrates: Managerialism, metrics and bureaucratisation in universities, Australian Universities Review, vol. 58, no. 2, p. 15-25.
  28. ^ Mayo, Elton. "Elton Mayo Quotes". QuoteHD. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  29. ^ Marx, Karl, and David McLellan. The Grundrisse. Print.
  30. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Walter Arnold. Kaufmann. The Portable Nietzsche. New York: Penguin, 1976. Print.
  31. ^ Quoted in: Jessop, Bob, and Russell Wheatley. Karl Marx's Social and Political Thought. London: Routledge, 1999. Print, volume 6, page 251. ISBN 9780415193283
  32. ^ "James Burnham: Letter of Resignation" (1940) Archived 2010-03-14 at the Wayback Machine on Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 13 April 2023. "Not only do I believe it meaningless to say that 'socialism is inevitable' and false that socialism is 'the only alternative to capitalism'; I consider that on the basis of the evidence now available to us a new form of exploitive society (which I call 'managerial society') is not only possible but is a more probable outcome of the present period than socialism."
  33. ^ James, Burnham (1941) [1941]. The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World. A Midland book, volume 23 (8 ed.). John Day Company. ISBN 9780253200235. Retrieved 13 April 2023.
  34. ^ For example: Spillane, Robert; Joullié, Jean-Etienne (9 May 2022). "The Rhetoric of Managerial Authority". Overcoming Managerialism: Power, Authority and Rhetoric at Work. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 115. ISBN 9783110758283. Retrieved 13 April 2023. Managerialists and their teachers readily embrace tautologies. They say or write such trivial sentences as, 'Improving staff morale is an on-going process', 'An astute manager makes shrewd decisions', 'Effective managers may eventually become leaders', 'Only organisations that are adapted to their environment survive.' [...] The managerialist literature is dominated by nonsensical propositions, such as 'Effective managers have outstanding flashes of vision', ' My manager has lower moral standards than I', 'Jack Welch was the best CEO General Electric ever had', 'Everything is relative', 'This organisation believes in excellence', 'My manager's mind is filled with facts', 'All sentences are metaphors'.