ABSTRACT

Following on from the previous chapter which discussed the importance of postmodern ideas about ‘discourse’, this chapter considers two more alternative ‘critical’ perspectives, namely ‘labour process theory’ and ‘critical management studies’. Before going on to ask important questions about what would be an appropriate culture and structure for youth work management. It continues to suggest that practitioners and managers alike reflect on the persuasive and pervasive discourse of efficiency and effectiveness which is being promoted, and ask how far contemporary accounts of leading and managing support the values and principles which underpin youth work. This first section considers the sociological analyses of the workplace which followed

on from and critiqued the positivist and uncritical nature of the early mainstream approaches in management theory and industrial sociology. It traces the development of a ‘structuralist’ approach, which highlighted the importance of understanding organizations in the economic and political context in which they operate. It then considers poststructuralist studies which consider both the way in which the social context shapes organizations, and the significance of ‘agency’, the ability of individuals to influence, to resist, change and reshape their work environments and to critique and challenge dominant discourses. Though rarely discussed in the field of youth work management, these ideas nevertheless have characteristics that resonate with key features of youth work, and provide frameworks through which to develop critical analysis of management theory and practice. They take account of the changing nature of modern workplaces and consider organizations, labour relations and management in the wider context of society, history and politics. ‘Labour process theory’ and ‘critical management studies’ look at organizations

from perspectives that are both different from, and critical of mainstream theory. In that, they open up ways of thinking about management that are particularly relevant to youth work. Amongst these are questions that have not always been central to mainstream management theory: how a diversity of voices and experiences can be heard, how democratic decision making can be protected and developed. They are also critical of mainstream management theory that disregards social structure and the political and economic context, as well as its scant basis in empirical evidence, and the way in which cultures and identities at work are formed, and developed, over time.