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A study of the consultant-client relationship: examining aspects of legitimation

Avakian, Stephanos (2008) A study of the consultant-client relationship: examining aspects of legitimation. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis provides an in-depth study of the consultant client relationship. It focuses on the phenomenon of legitimation which has been neglected in the prior literature. Legitimation is critical because it is responsible for signifying how and why knowledge claims come to be accepted or rejected between the client-consultant parties. The consultants' perceived value by the client is an outcome that is dependent on the economic and socio-political processes by which judgements are made. How legitimation takes place helps provides a new locus of understanding about the communication of business advice between consultants and clients. Such exploration helps generate novel insights for how value is created. Through the conduct of in-depth interviews with both consultants and clients, we managed to obtain comprehensive empirical data that helps challenge already held assumptions. Drawing on 64 interviews, with clients and consultants, and through the use of prior theoretical frameworks that are mainly drawn from the work by Suchman (1995) and Habermas (1984a, 1984b), we identify four modes of legitimation. Such modes are characterised in terms of their cognitive, pragmatic, moral and discursive nuances. We argue that each of the legitimatory categories indicate a separate set of conditions that need to be justified and which are driven by a distinct ideological character. Legitimation becomes a process in which implicit and explicit ideological values are mutually managed between the involved organisational actors. Our discussion helps open up a new field of understanding for the consultant client relationship that is relevant for both academics and practitioners.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2008
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:33

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