Critical management studies and the agélaste ethos
Journal article, 2008
Purpose – This paper aims to discuss the notion of carnival laughter in Bakhtin’s examination of
Rabelais’s literary works. The paper suggests that what may be called, after Rabelais, the age´laste
ethos, the ethos of the men and women without laughter, remains a strong influence in some domains
of critical management studies (CMS) as well as mainstream organization theory.
Design/methodology/approach – The literature review discusses Russian literature theorist
Mikhail Bakhtin’s analysis of the writings of Franc¸ois Rabelais and related his concept of the age´laste
to contemporary social and organization theory.
Findings – Some proponents of CMS praise the critical thinking and the outlook on society
established by its foundational writers Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse. As a consequence, CMS
tends to exclude the sources of joy, laughter and transgression and regard such social and human
gestures and events as being frivolous and ephemeral. Therefore, CMS remains trapped within its own
sphere of critical thinking and fails to address and understand significant components of everyday life.
Research limitations/implications – The paper suggests that the notion of “critique” needs to be
explored within the community of CMS researchers.
Originality/value – Discusses the concept of critique so central for both the CMS tradition of
thinking and other domains of management studies in new terms.