History and Governance


The Critical Management Studies Division developed from a series of workshops starting at the Academy of Management Meeting in 1998, led by Paul Adler. The CMS Workshops (CMSW) provided a unique forum for researchers with an interest in critical approaches (broadly defined) to present research on management and management education. Initially, program space was generously given by other supportive Divisions. The mission statement of the workshop organizers was as follows:

Our shared belief is that the management of business firms (and often of public and non-profit organizations) is guided by a narrow goal - securing profits and managing the bottom-line - with little if any attention paid to other goals or to the interests of society as a whole. We believe that other goals - justice, community, human development, ecological balance - should be brought to bear on the governance of economic activity. We are fundamentally critical of the notion that the pursuit of profit will automatically satisfy these broader goals. We hold that such a one-sided system extracts an unacceptably high social cost for whatever progress it offers.

Our shared commitment is to challenging the assumptions on which managerialist research and one-sided management practices are built and to working with others inside and outside the university, for a society that is grounded in just working relationships, human and community development and ecological balance as well as on the efficient allocation of resources. The CMSW's objective is therefore the development of critical interpretations of management and organization - interpretations that are critical not of poor management, nor of individual managers or individual firms, but of the system of business and management that reproduces this one-sidedness. The common denominator is the conviction that the Academy of Management is not just the Academy ‘for’ Management.

In 2001, a proposal was put to the AOM Board of Governors, signed by 150 members, to support a new Special Interest Group (SIG). As this proposal makes clear, CMS embraces critique from epistemological as well as ontological stances, and is post-positivist in the broadest sense of the word. CMS also encourages a wide range of theoretical perspectives including poststructuralist, (post/neo)Marxist, feminist, hermeneutic, and interpretive research. The CMS Special Interest Group was founded later that year by Paul Adler, Ralph Stablein and Carroll Stephens, in presidential, secretary-treasurer and program-development roles; and ten co-founder volunteers, John Jermier, Erica Foldy, Peter Frost, Jim Walsh, Linda Smircich, Hugh Willmott, Cynthia Hardy, Bill Kaghan and David Jacobs.

The Special Interest Group grew rapidly to more than 750 members from around 50 countries, the most diverse community within AOM. Following lively debate within the CMS community, a second proposal was put to the AOM Board in 2008 to become a full Division. This process was overseen by Bill Cooke. The proposal was approved, and the Division’s status was subsequently renewed in 2013. Division members continue to work to the purpose set out in the proposal in 2001, which is reflected in the Division domain statement. A list of past CMS SIG/Division Chairs can be found on our people page.

The CMS Division is governed as part of the AOM. We also maintain Division by-laws. If you would like to know more about how the Division works, or to volunteer to participate in maintaining it, please contact the current Division Chair.