Academic Climate Activism, Social Criticism or Civic Disobedience: What Roles for Business School Academics?



In the seminar, by combining academic reflections with personal experiences, I would like to stimulate a discussion about our role as scholars in the field of management and organization facing the climate and biodiversity crisis. In a recent essay published in Organization Studies, I argued that it is impossible not to be activists, at least implicitly, in our work because both the choice of research questions and the theories and methods we use are infused with values. Those who claim to be value-free are actually concealing their political position behind a facade of apparent neutrality. I also argued that given the level of existential risk and the urgency of the crisis, we should actively support climate movements, as some of our colleagues are doing in Scientist Rebellion. However, what are the consequences of embracing political activism? And what are the boundaries of activism? Is civil disobedience a necessary component of activism as philosophers like Claudia Paganini maintain? Furthermore, is political activism the best form of engagement for business school academics, who, at least in some countries, have privileged access to economic elites? Lisa Gilson, in a recent article in the American Political Science Review, argues for the need for an ecology of roles that also includes social criticism. Perhaps she is right, and we should not engage as activists after all?


Cited literature:

Delmestri, G. (2023). Are we all activists?. Organization Studies, 44(1), 159-162.

Gilson, Lisa (2023). Activism versus Criticism? The Case for a Distinctive Role for Social Critics. American Political Science Review, 1-14.


About Giuseppe Delmestri

Giuseppe is Professor at the Institute of Change Management & Management Development in the Management Department of WU Vienna University of Economics and Business. He received his doctoral degree from Mannheim University and his habilitations to Associate Professor and to Ordinarius at Parthenope University in Naples. He currently studies market and social categories, branding, status, stigma, power, identities and ethics in multinational companies, cinema, universities, global cities, community pharmacy and the food and beverage industry. He has published widely in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, Human Relations, next to others.


We are offering 1:1 sessions to meet with our speaker. Furthermore, we will be taking Giuseppe for dinner after his seminar. Sign-up for the 1:1 sessions and the dinner here.