‘Business as Usual’: Critical Management Studies and the Case of Environmental Sustainability Education

Seb Dianati, Grant Banfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The inclusion of sustainability and ethics teachings in management education for many seems a positive step forward for creating more environmentally just and ethically sound managers. However, the type of knowledge that is privileged and the lack of history in these courses often greenwash the underlying problems inherent with neoliberal capitalism. The current paper traces the management movement as part of the Second Industrial Revolution and the capitalisation of labour alongside recent enthusiasm for the scientific management of labour. It argues that the scientific management movement-expressed in its dominant ‘Taylorist’ form – has come to provide management education theory and practice with its ideological base resting upon scientificity and individualism. This leads to a dual contradiction and exploitation. One of nature by capital and one of human labour. The crisis of nature, is the crisis of sustainability education that has arisen since the 1970’s. The constant contradiction with labour is enduring. The expansion of capital demands the exploitation and degradation of labour and the natural environment. By historically and ideologically situating management education and sustainability education offers space to trace, track and question their epistemological underpinnings in an effort to argue current sustainability management education is a myth and does little to question the status quo. It identifies the emerging field of Critical Management Studies (CMS), with its explicit commitments to social justice and an ethic of sustainability, as being important to this development and as a new way forward. While CMS has its own theoretical limitations, which are identified within, it is positioned as a socially progressive development of the broader field of Management Studies offering a challenge to ‘business as usual’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-357
Number of pages33
JournalJournal for Critical Education Policy Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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