Dr Olivier Ratle

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About me

I joined the University of the West of England in 2007, where I have been conveying a range of modules on the theory and practice of organising, and on research philosophies and methods, on undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD programs.

As a critical management academic, I bring to my teaching practice what Fournier and Grey (2000) identified as the constitutive principles of the Critical Management Studies community: an anti-performative stance, and a commitment to denaturalization and reflexivity. This means for me that I always encourage learners to question how power relations in society shape how we understand the world around us – how we take for granted certain problematic practices, and how dominant modes of understanding prevent us imagining alternative organisational futures.

One of the most interesting part of my work is helping students start and develop their dissertation project. Management and social research can be seen as the capacity to make, support and communicate an in-depth and complex argument within debates that have relevance to organisations and society. To learn about research skills is to learn about how to be a citizen who can contribute to important debates in a meaningful, rational, and enlightened manner. This resonates well with the University's motto: Light, Liberty, Learning. 

Area of expertise

Central to my research work is the idea that as management academics, philosophical, methodological, and theoretical pluralism are something that we should embrace, encourage, nurture, and that attempts to reduce the diversity of approaches to the study of management and organisations should be resisted. This idea is enacted in two related research programmes:

1) The politics of methodology. Studying the politics of methodology means studying why certain ways of doing research have cultural authority in society, whilst others are treated with suspicion. This is important, because unlike the proverbial hammer (a neutral tool that can be used to do either good or bad things), research methodologies are not neutral bodies of knowledge and practices. For a start, any methodology tends to be used to study a specific category of phenomena, so to deny the legitimacy of a methodology generally means also denying the possibility of studying certain phenomena. Management scholars recurrently debate whether the field should be organised around a single philosophical paradigm (what methodologists call 'monism'), or whether philosophical pluralism should be nurtured and encouraged. My PhD thesis ('Rhetoric and the intellectual structure of organisation studies') offered a contribution to this dispute by analysing the rhetorical practices that enable and sustain the possibilities of making arguments against pluralism. I have written about rhetorical strategies in landmark controversies, about the argumentation topoi within the 'paradigm debate', and on the way the work of Thomas Kuhn has been used by management and organisation scholars.

2) The predicament of early-career academics. Early-career academics (ECAs) often find themselves in a difficult position. In an era characterised by austerity, and where universities are organised to operate in a quasi-market environment, early-career academics face conflicting and homogenising pressures. With colleagues from the Open University and the University of Glasgow, I am studying the predicament of ECAs through different lenses. We have looked at the disjunctures experienced by ECAs when they enter the profession, and how they resolve those. We have analysed the nature of resistance enacted by ECAs, with an emphasis on how ECAs often manage to make a real and positive difference to their respective organisation. More recently, we turned our focus to the notion of rhythm, to show that ECAs's career paths are increasingly characterised by a 'temporal rigidification', and a fastening and intensification of the pace of the work. What is happening to ECAs is important, as they are the future of the profession – a profession where insights, creativity and diversity can feel devalued in relation to performative measures (e.g. journal rankings, university league tables) that become ends in themselves.



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