By David Levy.
As Stephan Manning commented in a recent blog post, many of us who attended the recent Academy of Management conference in Orlando, Florida, felt some of the discomfort of the fakeness of the place, the endless “have a magical day” greetings from overly perky staff (“castmembers”, in Disney’s Orwellian newspeak), the over-engineered physical environment of artificial beauty with an enormous carbon footprint (the steady stream of planes arriving, the acres of over-air conditioned buildings – but you save the earth if you hang up your towels!) Parallels with the TV series The Prisoner or the classic movie The Stepford Wives jump to mind (indeed in the book, the leader of the men’s club is a former Disney engineer).
By Stephan Manning.
Have you ever been to Disney World Orlando? Well, around 8,000 management scholars, including myself, just returned home from this rather curious place which hosted this year’s Academy of Management Annual Meeting, generating a series of satirical comments, including an anonymous ‘Letter to Minnie’. The theme of the conference was ‘Capitalism in Question’ which – as Crane and Matten rightly point out in their recent blog – was oddly matched with a site that symbolizes corporate capitalism in its ugly form – low-paid employees under continuous emotional stress, overpriced hotels and tours, marketing and merchandising overkill – combined with some other annoying features – lack of food options, long lines, constrained access to the outside world – that remind us of state socialism a la East Germany or Soviet Union rather than the ideal of a ‘free’ (capitalist) world. So how does Disney continue to attract visitors, including academics, year by year? Or more broadly speaking, how do certain old corporate giants, such as Disney, Coca Cola and McDonald’s, who share a bad reputation for their labor conditions and whose offerings are everything but natural, healthy and ecologically sustainable, continue to exist? Why is it that some old giants apparently never die, but rather monopolize large parts of our consumer economy? I can see at least five reasons why even our children and grandchildren will continue to be hugged by Minnie, Mickey and friends, while drinking Coke and downing a Cheeseburger.