How can a Bourdieusian perspective aid the analysis of MBA education?

Vaara, Eero and Fay, Eric (2011) How can a Bourdieusian perspective aid the analysis of MBA education? Academy of Management Learning and Education, 10 (1). pp. 27-39. ISSN 1537-260X

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There is a lack of integrative conceptual models that would help to better understand the underlying reasons for the alleged problems of MBA education. To address this challenge, we draw on the work of Pierre Bourdieu to examine MBA education as an activity with its own “economy of exchange” and “rules of the game.” We argue that application of Bourdieu's theoretical ideas elucidates three key issues in debate around MBA education: the outcomes of MBA programs, the inculcation of potentially problematic values and practices through the programs, and the potential of self-regulation, such as accreditation and ranking for impeding development of MBA education. First, Bourdieu's notions of capital—intellectual, social, and symbolic—shed light on the “economy of exchange” in MBA education. Critics of MBA programs have pointed out that the value of MBA degrees lies not only in “learning.” Bourdieu's framework allows further analysis of this issue by distinguishing between intellectual (learning), social (social networks), and symbolic capital (credentials and prestige). Second, the concept of “habitus” suggests how values and practices are inculcated through MBA education. This process is often one students acquire voluntarily, and students often regard problematic or ethically questionable ideas as natural. Third, Bourdieu's reflections on the “doxa” and its reproduction and legitimation illuminate the role of accreditation and ranking in MBA education. This perspective helps to understand how self-regulation may impede change in MBA education.

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Journal Article
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Academy of Management Learning and Education
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05 Jun 2013 10:03
Last Modified:
21 Nov 2022 23:51