One in seven students at UK universities are now studying business and management disciplines. These institutions act as loudspeakers for neoliberal capitalism with all its injustices and planetary consequences.
Martin Parker outlines five reasons why we should shut down business schools! In his new book, Shut Down the Business School Martin Parker, management professor at Bristol University, argues that these ‘cash cows’ for the contemporary university should be replaced with a ‘School for Organising’. Here, he outlines his five reasons why we need to shut down business schools!
1. Business schools teach corporate capitalism.
If you chose to study history or biology, you would study the human past, or the processes of life on the planet. If you study business, you will mostly study capitalist corporations, and nothing else. You won’t study co-ops, mutuals, complementary currencies or credit unions. You won’t study degrowth, localization, labour struggles or democratic decision making at work. This is like a history department only teaching about the 17th century, or a biologist deciding that their subject should only study creatures with legs. The hidden curriculum delivered by the b-school teaches us that the corporation is the best way of delivering efficiencies of scale and price and ignores all the other ways in which business gets done. This selectiveness is ideology dressed up as education.
2. Business schools encourage short term greed
Students at business schools are rewarded for thinking about business as if it were simply a matter of profit and loss. The curriculum teaches how to maximise shareholder value, how to sell products and services that people don’t want or need, how to avoid paying taxes and how to externalize costs onto the environment or state. In return for substantial fees, the b-school makes promises about starting salaries of graduates and sells the idea that the manager should be paid more than those that they manage. Given the importance of ethics and politics for politicians, teachers, doctors, journalists or judges, why do we assume that business education should avoid discussion of anything but reward? Why do we accept the teaching of market-based selfishness as if were the only view of human nature?
3. Business schools damage the real economy
The financial instruments that are routinely used by banks and debt traders, and that brought the global economy to its knees a decade ago, are taught within business schools. So too are ideas about the necessity of economic growth, international trade and the evasion of regulation in favour of ‘free trade’. This is the common sense of global business, and it presents a real danger to people and planet. The business school is generating the sort of business common sense which creates inequalities within and between nations, generates systematic financial crises, and fails to recognize the importance of carbon reduction. Any genuinely sustainable economic model can not be the one that we have at present, and which is reproduced by the b-school.
4. Business schools damage the idea of the university
The marketization of universities in the UK has been assisted by the business school. Without the substantial profits being made by the b-school in selling its knowledge to students from around the world, it would not have been possible to drastically reduce the government grants to universities in the name of austerity. The money that b-schools make now helps to prevent universities going bankrupt and subsidises most other university subjects. Not only does that mean that business schools are forced to teach what will sell, it also introduces the language and practices of managerialism to the university. Universities have become businesses which sell their products, with customers, striking employees and highly paid chief executives. The business school is both the symptom and cause of these changes.
5. There are alternative ways of doing business
None of this is to be ‘against business’. That would be foolish, because we need businesses to supply the goods and services that make our lives possible and pleasurable. The question is what kind of businesses we want to encourage. If we want a genuine debate about what a low carbon economy might look like, and how questions of social justice and inclusion can be addressed by businesses, then the contemporary business school is not good enough. We need the business school to become a proper subject, to become a ‘school for organizing’ that teaches about how people have come together to make and sell things in a wide variety of ways. This means teaching about history, as well as anthropology. It means understanding that the variety of ways that people have organized is much greater than their similarity, and if we are going to collectively face the challenges of the present, the contemporary business school needs to be demolished.
Shut Down the Business School: What’s Wrong with Management Education by Martin Parker is available to buy from Pluto Press.
Martin Parker has taught at business schools since 1995, including at Warwick, Leicester and Keele Universities. He is currently Professor at the Department of Management, University of Bristol. He is also the co-author of Fighting Corporate Abuse (Pluto, 2014).