Missionaries, mercenaries or car salesmen? MBA teaching in Malaysia

Andrew Sturdy, Yiannis Gabriel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (SciVal)


Increasing academic attention is being given to the role of management gurus, consultants, managers and academic researchers in the international diffusion of Western management ideas. This is part of wider debates on knowledge, power and globalization. Relatively little attention has been paid to the mechanisms through which diffusion takes place and, in particular, the role of academics as lecturers and business schools as disseminators of management knowledge at home and abroad. This paper draws on the authors' personal experiences and perceptions of teaching on an Executive MBA programme in Malaysia and those of their students. Management education is growing rapidly in many regions of the world and has become highly commodified and commercialized, with Western universities competing in emerging markets for potentially lucrative local opportunities and foreign students or 'consumers'. Accordingly, the process of diffusion of Western management ideas is examined through a consumption perspective which treats the foreign MBA as a standardized commodity (much like the foreign car) with particular use, symbolic and exchange values. However, the limits of the consumption perspective in terms of both consumer sovereignty and subordination are also established in revealing deeper and more dynamic relations of power. Moreover, it is argued that while there are parallels with domestic consumption of MBAs, the teaching of MBAs in Malaysia generates added ambivalence among learners founded on global-local and development-imperialism dynamics and tensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-1002
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of management studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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