We're all managers now: the discursive influence of management consultants
AffiliationSchool of Social and Political Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Martin Bortz
Over the last century, management consulting has enjoyed a meteoric rise. As part of this, consultants have, more and more, become key actors in modern governance systems. This has led academic and non-academic authors alike to explore how much influence consultants have over public policy. As part of this, consultants are seen to exert influence by introducing private sector ideas to assist public sector managers resolve pressing organisational and social challenges. Current scholarship, however, tends to downplay the more discursive aspects of consultant influence. To address this gap, this thesis is fundamentally a discursive study of the policy influence of management consultants. Its main argument is that consultants can draw on a repertoire of discursive mechanisms (ideas, identity, narratives, and metaphor) to influence other policy actors in a coalition. At the same time, these other actors can resist the ideas, narratives, metaphors, and discourses that consultants supply. The crucial factor here, and the contribution of the thesis, is what I refer to as interpretive frames. An interpretive frame is a collection of pre-conceived ideas, interests, and identities that a coalition uses to understand and interpret the policy world around it. They influence what should be done in response to pressing social challenges, as well as the steps, actions, or processes that are needed to do so. In addition, the formal rules and structures in a policy process also govern and constrain consultants’ ability to be influential. Thus, consultants will be more influential on a coalition when their discursive repertoire demonstrates a discursive affinity with the interpretive frame of a coalition. Here, consultants can exercise agency in the strategic choices they make about which discourses to reproduce, and how. At the same time, their ability to do so is highly constrained - within a coalition’s interpretations, as well as by institutional rules and structures.
Keywordsmanagement consultants; discourse; influence; discourse coalition
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