Seeking societal relevance in management studies

Elke Weik, Mette Lund Kristensen, Ingo Winkler, Richard Mee


This paper contributes to the current debate regarding the societal relevance of the social sciences in general, and management studies in particular. Using a narrative framework, we take issue with the, in our view, oversimplified discussion of Mode 1 or 2 knowledge production and present a more complex picture of various professional academic identities and their relation to certain institutional structures and discourses. We show how different narratives relate to, and produce, different forms of professional identities and societal relevance. Drawing on the work of Zygmunt Bauman, we explore three main narratives for defining and creating societal relevance in management studies, each with its specific scholarly identities and institutional prerequisites: a modernist narrative in which societal relevance is defined by powerful external stakeholders; an interpretive narrative in which it is tied to local concerns and interests; and a consumption-oriented narrative in which demand and the will to pay for academic services regulates what is considered relevant. We conclude that societal relevance presents itself to the social sciences in various shapes and forms. This leads to a multiplicity of narratives informing a variety of complementary professional identities of academics.


relevance; management studies; Bauman; identity

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