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From Higher Aims to Hired Hands

From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 544
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  • Book Info
    From Higher Aims to Hired Hands
    Book Description:

    Is management a profession? Should it be? Can it be? This major work of social and intellectual history reveals how such questions have driven business education and shaped American management and society for more than a century. The book is also a call for reform. Rakesh Khurana shows that university-based business schools were founded to train a professional class of managers in the mold of doctors and lawyers but have effectively retreated from that goal, leaving a gaping moral hole at the center of business education and perhaps in management itself.

    Khurana begins in the late nineteenth century, when members of an emerging managerial elite, seeking social status to match the wealth and power they had accrued, began working with major universities to establish graduate business education programs paralleling those for medicine and law. Constituting business as a profession, however, required codifying the knowledge relevant for practitioners and developing enforceable standards of conduct. Khurana, drawing on a rich set of archival material from business schools, foundations, and academic associations, traces how business educators confronted these challenges with varying strategies during the Progressive era and the Depression, the postwar boom years, and recent decades of freewheeling capitalism.

    Today, Khurana argues, business schools have largely capitulated in the battle for professionalism and have become merely purveyors of a product, the MBA, with students treated as consumers. Professional and moral ideals that once animated and inspired business schools have been conquered by a perspective that managers are merely agents of shareholders, beholden only to the cause of share profits. According to Khurana, we should not thus be surprised at the rise of corporate malfeasance. The time has come, he concludes, to rejuvenate intellectually and morally the training of our future business leaders.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3086-2
    Subjects: Business, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. INTRODUCTION Business Education and the Social Transformation of American Management
    (pp. 1-20)

    Modern management has long been one of the most powerful but invisible of American institutions—invisible not in the sense of being out of the public eye but in the sense that its control of many of society’s most powerful organizations has become so taken for granted, and its influence so pervasive, that it has evaded searching scrutiny.

    This idea might seem counterintuitive today, when in less than a decade we have gone from the era of the charismatic, superstar CEO of the likes of Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch to a historical moment that has seen not just the...

  4. I The Professionalization Project in American Business Education, 1881–1941

    • 1 An Occupation in Search of Legitimacy
      (pp. 23-50)

      The enormous cadre of salaried managers who administer the affairs of large corporations has become such a dominant and taken-for-granted presence that it requires considerable historical imagination to recognize that there was nothing inevitable about its appearance and development. It was not until the late 1870s that the equivalent of today’s modern, salaried manager emerged as a significant, if still vaguely defined, entity. By 1900, the number of managers in organizations had grown dramatically. National statistics are difficult to find, but in the transportation and communications industries, for example, the number of proprietors, officials, managers, and inspectors increased from 12,501...

    • 2 Ideas of Order: Science, the Professions, and the University in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century America
      (pp. 51-86)

      In their effort to establish management as not only a legitimate occupation but also a pillar of social order amid the turbulent economic and social conditions of the late nineteenth century in the United States, the institutional entrepreneurs described in the preceding chapter resorted to three institutions that, like the large corporation and its control by “professional” managers, are now entirely taken for granted as foundational structures of contemporary society. Science, the professions, and the American research university, however, also resemble the modern corporation and contemporary management in having assumed their present forms at a point in history—the very...

    • 3 The Invention of the University-Based Business School
      (pp. 87-136)

      The disruption of the social order occasioned by the rise of the large corporation in America and the attempt to construct a new social order for this profoundly altered social context stand as defining events of the modern era. Industrialization, coupled with urbanization, increased mobility, and the absorption of local economies into what was increasingly a single national economy dominated by large corporations, had facilitated the deinstitutionalization of traditional authority structures. The reconstitution of the institutions of science, professions, and the university in the course of the late nineteenth century offered alternative structures and rationales that could serve as the...

    • 4 “A Very Ill-Defined Institution”: The Business School as Aspiring Professional School
      (pp. 137-192)

      The once unthinkable idea of offering business education within the university did not take root and flourish all at once. For seventeen years following the founding of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1881, no other university established a freestanding business school. Eventually, in 1898, the University of Chicago and the University of California at Berkeley established the College of Commerce and Politics and the College of Commerce, respectively. From that point until the Great Depression university business education grew rapidly. Between 1900 and 1913, twenty-five universities established separate schools for business studies, including Dartmouth, New York...

  5. II The Institutionalization of Business Schools, 1941–1970

    • 5 The Changing Institutional Field in the Postwar Era
      (pp. 195-232)

      For business schools, the years immediately following World War II were, to borrow from Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times. To all outward appearances, the beginning of the postwar era was a period of vitality and growth for college and university business education. The U.S. government had come to believe that the well-being of American society depended on the contributions of large numbers of persons with higher educational qualifications, and colleges and universities were flooded with students, many of them pursuing business studies. In 1919, a mere 110 MBAs had been granted in the United States;...

    • 6 Disciplining the Business School Faculty: The Impact of the Foundations
      (pp. 233-288)

      The first sixty years of university-based business education—from the founding of the Wharton School up until the eve of World War II—had been a period of diversity, experimentation, and, for the leaders of the business school movement, mounting frustration. In the 1920s and 1930s, the high aims with which the first business schools had been launched were increasingly thwarted by the challenges of creating a new variety of professional school—and indeed a whole new profession—virtually from scratch. The outbreak of the war brought the AACSB’s attempted revival of the professionalization project in the 1930s to an...

  6. III The Triumph of the Market and the Abandonment of the Professionalization Project, 1970–the Present

    • 7 Unintended Consequences: The Post-Ford Business School and the Fall of Managerialism
      (pp. 291-332)

      The Ford Foundation reforms had brought about sweeping changes in business schools that had the effect of institutionalizing managerialism as the governing rationale for “professional” business education. In the process, as we saw in chapter 6, the concept of professionalism that had provided the original rationale for university-based business education had been stripped of much of its original content. The ideal of professionalism had always rested on combining mastery of specific knowledge with adherence to certain formal or informal codes of conduct and, even more fundamental, to an ideal of service. The notion of “science-based professionalism” that had motivated the...

    • 8 Business Schools in the Marketplace
      (pp. 333-362)

      Although, as I argued in the previous chapter, intellectual developments within the discipline of economics such as transaction-cost economics, agency theory, and the efficient-market hypothesis played a central role in overthrowing the managerial paradigm that had governed business education throughout the post–World War II era, what I have called the “disciplining” of business school faculties encompassed more than just the ascendancy of economics. Inside business schools, quantitative analysis increasingly came to be seen as the most legitimate form of research. In fields from organizational behavior to marketing to operations, sociology and psychology also claimed many adherents oriented more to...

  7. EPILOGUE Ideas of Order Revisited: Markets, Hierarchies, and Communities
    (pp. 363-384)

    This book has traced an arc through the history of university business education showing that an institution created to legitimate management has become, through the abandonment of the professionalization project that provided its initial direction and impetus, a vehicle for thedelegitimation of management. This 180-degree turn in the fundamental orientation of business education has come about via the substitution of market logic for the professional and managerial logics that successively dominated business schools from their beginnings in the late nineteenth century up until the end of managerial capitalism in the 1970s and 1980s. The dramatic transformation in the nature...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 385-386)
  9. Bibliographic and Methods Note
    (pp. 387-396)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 397-482)
  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 483-508)
  12. Index
    (pp. 509-531)