Thinking the ontological politics of managerial and critical performativities: an examination of project failure

Recent contributions within Critical Management Studies have argued for critical engagements with performativity to acknowledge and advance the plurality of performance calculi within organizations. However, even critically minded authors persist in deploying managerial calculi of performance when criticizing the failure of management on its own terms. Equally, interpretive analyses of performance narratives as discursive power games have thus far offered little substantive challenge to managerial understandings of performativity, as orientated around maxims of efficiency, control and profit. Positioned against these managerialist and conservative tendencies in extant understandings of performativity, we draw together the ANT- derived notions of ontological performativity and politics, alongside empirical research on projects, and specifically project failure, to propose that if ontologies are performative, multiple, and political, then performativities are ontological, multiple and political, and are thus capable of being realized otherwise; but crucially, we can advance this thesis only if we better understand how managerial performativity simultaneously others and depends on that which is outside it: an absent hinterland of different performative realities. This theoretical move challenges how we might not only understand but assemble multiple performed realities — demanding new methodological, analytical and political resources and responses to engage with performativities.