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Reflexive practice and the making of elite business careers

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mairi Maclean, Professor Charles Harvey


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This article develops a new perspective on reflexive practice in the making of elite business careers. It builds upon Bourdieu's practice framework to examine how business leaders from elite and non-elite backgrounds develop and practice reflexivity in their everyday lives. The article draws upon in-depth life-history interviews with members of the British business elite. Elites exhibited five types of reflexive behaviour, from which two modes of reflexive practice were derived: an accumulative mode, through which business leaders reflexively accumulate capital, positions and perspectives; and a re-constructive mode, through which they re-constitute the self in response to contingences, contexts and insights gathered. Our analysis suggests a link between reflexivity and career advancement, particularly in the case of non-privileged elites. Their greater experience of navigating the social landscape may facilitate perspective-taking, enhancing multipositionality, enabling such individuals to seize opportunities previously unthinkable.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Maclean M, Harvey C, Chia R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Management Learning

Year: 2012

Volume: 43

Issue: 4

Pages: 385-404

Print publication date: 20/06/2012

ISSN (print): 1350-5076

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7307

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1350507612449680


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