Whenever I look back at my years as a graduate student at Berkeley, I feel a surge of excitement along with a liberal dose of nostalgia. For me, like for so many others, these were years of discovery, exploration and hope, years in which I met some of my best friends, I developed some of the ideas that have stayed with me longest, and experienced some of the moments of greatest emotional happiness and intellectual exhilaration that I have ever experienced.
Many of the professors left a lasting impact on me -- Neil Smelser, David Matza, Gertrude Jaeger, Robert Blauner and not least the late Paul Feyerabend, whose philosophy of science classes were among the most stimulating experiences of my life. Yet, a great deal of the learning was initiated by fellow-students who organized a variety of cutting-edge courses in Marxist controversies, Freudian theory and others. I will not forget working on the Berkeley Journal of Sociology in 1974, a life-enhancing group experience. Much of my work at the time focused on labor process and psychoanalytic theories, although I found myself becoming familiar with a wide range of ideas. Apart from making a great number of friends with extraordinary people, I remember my second year at Berkeley for a mad escapade to Reno, Nevada, where I got married with Jane, my companion since then.
My years at Berkeley were followed by a year in the Greek military -- a mind-destroying experience, as Berkeley had been a mind-expanding one. There followed years of teaching in a variety of British universities, in which the birth and first steps of my two children offered much more significant memory landmarks than my expanding research interests in the sociology of organizations and psychoanalysis. Those were years when, under the influence of Margaret Thatcher's 'There is no such thing as society,' sociology became almost a pariah in British universities. Very few job and research opportunities. Like many other social scientists, I found myself working for a number of business schools, with my research focusing increasingly on work organizations and the labor process.
In 1989, I moved to Bath University which had and continues to have a very vibrant Management School. Surrounded by several unusual thinkers (mostly of a social constructionist hue), I developed two areas of research interests. One was in storytelling and narratives. I came to view these as elements of an 'unmanaged organization,' and used them to study some aspects of organizations which had not been adequately recognized -- fantasy, emotion, dream. The study of stories and narratives allowed me, at last, to bring together the two core research interests that had stayed apart in my thinking, psychoanalysis and labour process. I realized that many stories could be analysed as though they were dreams, without losing sight of their political and cultural dimensions. This also allowed me to exorcise my experience in the military by allowing me to interpret and finally resolve many of the stories that I had picked up there. The other new area of interest has been in studying the consumer, something very important for the study of organizations, but also indispensable in understanding contemporary higher education, as students come to view themselves through the prism of consumerism.
Three years ago, I had the great privilege of being appointed Professor of Organizational Theory at Imperial College London, the university where I had started my studies as an undergraduate 30 years earlier. I have continued to research storytelling and narratives, but have also developed a critique of the dissemination of management ideas and concepts as fads and fashions, and more generally a critique of what I call 'the hubris of management', the belief that everything can be forecast and controlled by management.
I am currently teaching courses on leadership, organizational theory and psychoanalysis of organizations. I am associate editor of 'Human Relations' and editor emeritus of 'Management Learning.'
When people ask me what I am, I rarely say 'Sociologist' these days. I am more likely to call myself 'social psychologist' or 'organizational theorist'. All the same, my years at Berkeley were the basis on which much of my thinking, and maybe even my identity, are based. They are a part of my past that I particularly cherish.