Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1997

Men as Managers, Managers as Men: Critical Perspectives on Men, Maculinities and Managements

David L. Collinson and Jeff Hearn
Sage Publications: London
ISBN 0 8039 8929 6 (pb); 0 8039 8928 8 (hb)
£13.95 (pb); £45.00 (hb)
288 pp.

Order this book

In their opening chapter to this volume the editors, David Collinson and Jeff Hearn, state their aim as 'breaking the silence' about the links between men, masculinities and management. Such a silence arises from taken-for-granted assumptions about gender which have informed thinking about management both as practice and object of study. The insights of feminist research and of the spate of work by male researchers problematizing masculinity are brought to bear on managers in this stimulating book. Such a task seems the more urgent since, as Collinson and Hearn point out, the 1980s witnessed the resurgence of the cult of 'macho managers.' with its attendant discourses equating masculinity and virility and making abundant use of metaphors of sexual conquest and sporting prowess.

The book falls into two sections. The introduction and subsequent four chapters present theoretical and historical perspectives. Wendy Hollway explores the evolution of discourses of masculinity in terms of differing notions of mastery, and links these to the transition from scientific management to human relations orthodoxy in management: masculinity here is theorized not merely as differentiation from the feminine 'other' but also in terms of shifting relationships among men. Deborah Kerfoot and David Knights also explore discourses constitutive of managerial identities, highlighting themes of control, rationality and disembodiment, while David Morgan takes up one of the prescriptions from 'Discovering Men' (Routledge: 1992), the need to reconceptualize classic theories and texts from a gendered perspective, in a critical review of Weber's model of bureaucracy. Beverly Burris offers an account of changing forms of patriarchal control enshrined in management, especially the development of technocratic control which plays on notions of expertise and meritocracy. Progressive managers no longer exclude women, who are seen to add 'sexual spice' to the workplace, but rather keep them subordinate by ignoring their competencies.

The remaining chapters present case studies from empirical research. Three of these (by Patricia Yancey Martin, Michael Roper, and Craig Pritchard) deal with academic environments, noting the dominance of men in management and exploring the way homosocial cultures and control of committees and bureaucratic procedures act as defences against female competition. Martin provides a particularly fascinating account of the way men 'do gender' by manipulating practices of evaluation, selection and promotion. She notes prevailing strategies, such as public criticism of women by men, scapegoating of women for failures, sponsorship of men by senior mentors and men ganging up on women in committees. Alison Woodward and Cherlyl Lehman provide similar analyses of the masculine cultures of the European Commission and accountancy. Rosslyn Reed and Kate Mulholland offer historical accounts of differing forms of entrepreneurial masculinity in Australia and Britain respectively, utilizing life histories of successful businessmen. Mulholland's piece, drawn from her research into business families in Leicester, is particularly absorbing in its portrayal of egotistical male entrepreneurial values (' "real men" do not come home at five o clock' p. 134) and their reliance on a structure of female domestic support and sacrifice. Wives emphasized the isolation of their lives and the constraints on their activity, limited to 'a very important career as my wife and the mother of my children' (p. 140).

Overall this book makes a valuable addition to the study both of masculinities and of gendering in the workplace. Themes that persistently emerge are the plurality of masculinities and management styles; the centrality of notions of control, rationality and expertise to discourses of masculinity; and the devaluing of women and their expertise. Several authors speculate as to whether feminization will bring a real challenge to managerial masculinity as different skills and competencies become valued, although none provides firm evidence for this, perhaps because female managers are rather absent from these studies; while taking Hollway's point that gendering as a process involves relations between men, the active role of women in renegotiating femininity and masculinity should not be overlooked. It is also a pity that none of the case studies deal with manufacturing industry, where macho management is at its most pronounced; perhaps because of funding considerations, higher education seems to be replacing the car industry as the favoured site for sociological research into employment relations! But these are minor quibbles and this is a book to be purchased and enjoyed.

Harriet Bradley
University of Bristol

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1997