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Managerialism is a belief in the value of professional managers and the concepts and methods they use. It is associated with hierarchy, accountability and measurement, and a belief in the importance of tightly managed organizations, as opposed to individuals, or groups that do not resemble an organization.

In his book Managerialism : the emergence of a new ideology, Willard F. Enteman argued that managerialism is the ideological principle that says that societies are equivalent to the sum of the transactions made by the managements of organizations.[1]

Historian James Hoopes wrote that "The main origin 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."[2]

Managerialism Ideology[edit]

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. In other words, the managerialist society responds to whatever the managements of various organizations can gain in their transactions with each other. The needs, desires and wishes of the individual is 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 the fundamental social units are organizations. Ultimately, Managerialism specifically denies that the fundamental nature of society is an aggregation of individuals.[3]


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. Consequently in all enterprises and services, whether private or public, expertise in management must be taught by training and incentives to excel. In the political world it 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. It is criticized for weakening the public service ethos.[4]

If we 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 case 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.[5]


Managerialism in the economic sense is the application of managerial techniques in businesses. Managerialism in this regard has to do more with the strategic approach of setting goals. In order to achieve previously unimagined levels of accumulation and production, business 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 determines a mission or set of goals, which is then strategically analyzed by individuals lower on the hierarchy a.k.a. managers to devise local goals to carry out the overall mission. Put simply that managerial standard is to receive goals from above and to create new goals for those below.[6]

Also, in Managerialism, there is a belief that 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.[7] Experience and skills pertinent to an organization's core business are considered secondary.

The term 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 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.[citation needed]

There have been mixed reviews on the efficacy of Managerialism, explored extensively in university studies of the State. Some have accepted the flaws on 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.

The term 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."[8]

New Managerialism[edit]

The new 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 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 legal-rational authority. But governance through the new Managerialism is not dependent for its legitimation on Weber’s notion of legal-rational authority, but more on a form of rationality that depends upon efficiency in the market. Although this new Managerialism still draws on models of corporate Managerialism as well as accounts of NPM, 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.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Enteman, Willard F. (1993). Managerialism : the emergence of a new ideology. Madison, Wi: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299139247. 
  2. ^ Hoopes, James. "MANAGERIALISM: ITS HISTORY AND DANGERS". The Historical Society. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Enteman, Willard F. (1993). Managerialism : the emergence of a new ideology. Madison, Wi: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299139247. 
  4. ^ Enteman, Willard F. (1993). Managerialism : the emergence of a new ideology. Madison, Wi: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299139247. 
  5. ^ Bealey, Frank (1999). The Blackwell dictionary of political science (1. publ. ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 9780631206958. 
  6. ^ Preston, David Seth. "The Rise of Managerialism". Encyclopaedia of Philosophy of Education. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Quiggin, John (2003-07-02). "Word for Wednesday: managerialism (definition)". Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  8. ^ "Managerialism and the Demise of the Big Three, Real-world Economics Review" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  9. ^ Fitzsimons, Patrick. "Managerialism and Education". Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 5 November 2012.