(Un)Conditional surrender? Why do professionals willingly comply with managerialism

Mats Alvesson (Department of Business Administration, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
André Spicer (Cass Business School, London, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Publication date: 8 February 2016



The purpose of this paper is to explore the question – why do professionals surrender their autonomy? This paper looks at the case of academics, in particular business school academics. It traces how this group of professionals have progressively surrendered their autonomy and complied with the demands of managerialism.


This largely theoretical paper looks to develop an understanding of (over)compliance with the bureaucratization of research using the four faces of power – coercive, agenda setting, ideological and discursive.


The discussion of this paper argues that the surrendering of autonomy has been reinforced through coercive forms of power like rewards and punishment and bureaucratization; manipulation and mainstreaming through pushing a particular version of research to the top of the agenda; domination through shaping norms and values; and subjectification through creating new identities.


The paper explores how academics deal with tensions and paradoxes such as compliance and resistance, as well as love of work and loathing of it. To deal with these paradoxes, academics often treat their work as a game and see themselves as players. While this process enables academics to reconcile themselves with their loss of autonomy, it has troubling collective outcomes: the production of increasing uninteresting and irrelevant research.



Alvesson, M. and Spicer, A. (2016), "(Un)Conditional surrender? Why do professionals willingly comply with managerialism", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 29-45. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2015-0221

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