Finally in this introduction, I shall give an account of how the following chapters develop the themes I have begun to discuss. In Chapters Two and Three, I present the narratives that form the empirical basis of the thesis. I present my own autobiography first in Chapter Two for the reasons outlined above. I debated whether I should use the first person for the stories of others, according to the life history tradition. I finally decided that my own artifice as author would be more open to the judgement of my readers if the boundary between the actual words of my interviewees and my linkages between them were made explicit. Inevitably this produces a less ‘literary’ and engaging text but one that is more compatible with the conventions of presenting academic research. It is worth stressing again here that these narratives are not to be regarded as unproblematic ‘data’ that speaks in its own right. Rather these are constructed stories based upon interview transcripts that I present according to a Ricoeurian ethics of representation, which is developed in Chapter Six and then evaluated in my Conclusions. I wanted the stories to stand in their own right as having value in the tradition of the Chicago School and other life histories discussed earlier in this chapter.
In Chapter Four, I explore the way in which Critical Management Studies defines itself in relation to managers and management knowledge. This is initially undertaken through a review of the literature CMS produces about itself. I then reframe the resultant debates as a collective identity narrative that has implications for how managerial identity is understood and engaged with by CMS academics.
Chapter Five examines in more detail the dominant framing of managerial identity discussed in Chapter Four. It critically evaluates those positions which retain the possibility of autonomous agency and authenticity, and post-structuralist critiques of these positions, which view identity as a fractured product of competing discourses. Significant limits to these debates are suggested via a reflection on the significance of death. The chapter argues that our own finitude raises profound theoretical and ethical implications for the dominant understandings of managerial identity within CMS. In turn, these understandings have implications for the prospects of engagement with managers by CMS academics. Most significantly, the sociology of death lends support to a narrative conception of identity that is further developed in Chapter Six.
Chapter Six starts from the position developed by the discussion in Chapter Five that the facticity of death suggests that identity should be regarded as bound up with the temporal trajectory of our lives and so has an essentially biographical character. The work of Heidegger, Sartre and Ricoeur is reviewed in order to suggest a theoretically rigorous underpinning to a narrative conception of identity and to outline the ethical, theoretical and methodological implications of this conception of identity.
Chapter Seven interprets the narratives presented in Chapters Two and Three in the light of the theoretical position established by Chapters Five and Six. It utilises three distinct but complementary aspects of narrative to make cumulative sense of the life histories and to interrogate the concept of managerial identity. The first of these interpretative modes stresses the ‘history’ aspect of the stories, treating the narratives as illustrative of a collective generational experience having its roots in the specific political, social and economic circumstances of the late twentieth century. The second mode foregrounds the generic narrative elements drawn upon by the narrators in order to reveal the discursive features selected from the cultural repository of such features. The work of Propp (1968) on folklore is used to provide an interpretative framework for this second mode. Finally, the narratives are treated as story-telling performances and so the third mode uses a framework suggested by the work of Holstein and Gubrium (2000) designed to reveal the various strategies used by storytellers to present their identities to their listeners.
Chapter Eight seeks to draw the various strands of the thesis together, returning to the initial aims stated in this introduction. The potential of a narrative conception of identity for management research is discussed, particularly by evaluating the outcome of its deployment in Chapter Seven. The implications of this theoretical conception and the understanding of managerial identity it produces for the future development of CMS are also evaluated. In the next chapter, though, I begin the story of the thesis with my own story.