A “Useful” Discipline in Higher Education: Promotion and Appropriations of Management Science, 1965–1975

By Fabienne Pavis


Focusing on management education in France, this article aims at explaining how a discipline considered as “useful” became an academic one and what was the impact of such a process on students. It first details the arguments that were used to promote and renovate management education from the mid1960s onward: they were related to the economic modernization of the country. Then it deals with the enforcement of this policy: its appropriations were quite differentiated in keeping with the position of each institution in the highly hierarchical social space of management education and with the various resources of the actors who invested in it as academics, young graduates and as students. A supply of new academic positions emerged both in business schools and in universities. In both kinds of institutions, the new specialists became essential, but their professional status remained ambiguous: their controlling authorities reproached them with becoming either too academic or too entrepreneurial. As for students, they were able to profit by the renewal of pedagogy and by the new value put on business studies. However, there was a measure of inertia: social segregation of students remained strong despite the considerable increase of their number.


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