Theories of managerial action and their impact on the conceptualisation of executive careers.
Alvarez, Jose L.
In this paper I outline one of the developments in the social sciences and macro organizational theory that could be of special profit for academic work on careers. I argue that a theory of action perspective is timely because its assumptions fit extremely well with the heterogeneity and lability of today’s structures and the plurality and unpredictability they bring to careers. I suggest there are two basic potential contributions of theories of action to the field of careers. First, they endorse the relevance of the shift in the basic image of managers’ careers, from the analogy of an ascendant trajectory of positions, to that of an idiosyncratic sequence of experiences loosely related to an organisational architecture. Second, they reinforce Weick’s arguments (1996) that careers cannot be conceived of merely as a dependent variable, as just “following” structures. Both contributions spring from a notion of management work in theories of action as essentially local, tactical, and pragmatic, with enacting or social constructionist effects on structure and organizations.
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