Reflexive practice and the making of elite business careers

Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey, Robert Chia

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-404
Number of pages20
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number4
Early online date20 Jun 2012
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • Bourdieu
  • business elites
  • life-history narratives
  • management careers
  • reflexive practice
  • reflexivity
  • social mobility


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