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Narrative Change Management in American Studies

A Pragmatic Reading

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Silke Schmidt

Management means getting things done. How can research on the theory and practice of management help American Studies move forward? This book offers a pragmatic approach to bridging the gap between the humanities and business studies. Based on a critical reading of the disciplinary cultures of American Studies and Business School education, the book analyses narratives of U.S. management theorists and practitioners, including Peter F. Drucker, Mary Cunningham, and John P. Kotter. The stories help readers acquire effective management and leadership tools for application-oriented humanities in the digital age.

"With her outsider perspective on the discourse in management research and application, Schmidt proposes interesting questions that can turn into fruitful research issues in Business Studies and its interdisciplinary exchange with American Studies. I hope this book falls on open ears." – Evelyn Korn

"Schmidt did pioneering work by taking the risk of entering novel terrain to show new paths for the further development of American Studies." – Carmen Birkle

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2 A Pragmatic Approach to Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Extract

I want a humanities education to provide more than ‘understanding,’ as illuminating as such ‘understanding’ may be. I want more than work that will help me to apprehend the present, personal, and collective, and to redescribe the past. These are important parts of a liberal education. But to me – I’ll put it bluntly – they are preliminary to the real goal. ‘What do books at their best go to effect? What is their highest and best purpose? It is not understanding? or not understanding only - but change. I hope to be provoked to change in salutary ways by the books I read. I hope to be provoked to struggle for productive change in my society and myself. (Edmundson 44)

These lines from a 2005 article by Mark Edmundson entitled “Humanities Past, Present - and Future” target the heart of the contribution my book seeks to make. Edmundson paints a vision of the humanities as “more than ‘understanding’.” One might interject that such a claim either misses the target or leaves the ground of the humanities. I do not think so. Thus, I want to follow Edmundson in going beyond understanding in the sense of humanistic interpretation and propose a novel approach to studying Business Studies as a field and management practice that is indeed based on comprehension as a “preliminary” to the kind of interdisciplinary cultural exchange I am suggesting by drawing on the philosophy of pragmatism. Instead of just making management be studied and ‘understood’ by...

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