International Conference ‘Is there an alternative? Management after critique’, University of Leicester 8-10 July 2015

By Agnieszka Kazimierczuk, ASC PhD candidate

The 9th International Conference in Critical Management Studies entitled ‘Is there an alternative? Management after critique’ took place 8-10 July at the University of Leicester, UK. The conference aimed to engage thinking that explores alternatives to the ubiquity of neoliberal market managerialism, as well as rejecting the idea that there are none. Such alternatives could be understood in practical and theoretical development terms (particularly in feminism, anarchism, communism, green thinking and so on). They focused on the critique of the economic, political, managerial and organisational dogma, as it becomes embedded as the supposed ‘one best way’ of doing things. The conference was organised around 29 panels and allowed a number of diverse discussions, starting with critical entrepreneurship, through the role of culture in regional governance, to inclusive development.

In the panel ‘Towards Inclusive development? Transformation in the Public, Private and Civic Sectors in Developing Countries’ (organized by Dr. Marja Spierenburg of VU University Amsterdam and Dr. Tiina Kontinen of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland), I gave a presentation entitled ‘Historical Overview of policies and institutions on productive employment in Kenya and the Netherlands in the context of multinational corporations’[1]. The presentation highlighted the strong link between the Dutch state and the private sector, especially regarding policies towards private sector development in developing countries. Since its independence, Kenyan government has also introduced a number of legislations to promote private sector as well as informal sector development. I highlighted the challenges linked to the studies of productive employment in developing countries, such as lack of reliable long-term data on employment in the formal and informal sector. The presentation’s aim was to show that despite efforts of the Kenyan government and international actors (such as the Netherlands), the growth of the country has not been inclusive so far and jobs created to date are predominantly ‘not productive’ and located in the informal sector. This has provided a rational for the next step of my research. I  want to explore why, despite all the efforts and the presence of over a hundred Dutch companies in Kenya, only limited productive employment has been created. Ultimately, I would like to know what (if any) has been the possible impact of the Dutch (multinational) cooperation on private sector development  and on (the limited) productive employment creation in Kenya, and how it has been achieved.

Other presentations in the panel discussed the role of social enterprises in South Africa (Frederik Claeye and Sandra Ramos), inclusiveness of the financial sector in South Africa (Graunt Kruger and Louise Whittaker), coproduction of space by citizens of informal settings in Zimbabwe (Wayne Shand) and moral economy in Burundi (Katarzyna Cieslik). The principal question discussed in the panel was whether inclusive development is an alternative and a potential motor for changes or whether it is a new way to reproduce the existing power relations.

The conference also served as a platform for new contacts and partnerships. Among participants, there was a number of scholars from Latin America and from Africa. These participants work primarily in management and business studies, but they were very interested in linking up with the African Studies Centre in Leiden.

[1] The presentation was based on a draft working paper entitled “Historical overview of development policies and institutions in the Netherlands, in the context of productive employment and multinational corporations” that is currently being finalized. The Working Paper, together with a one-pager map illustrating African partner countries for Dutch development cooperation between 1950-2015 will be published in October by the ASC.