Toward a History of Management Thought

Charles Howell


The history management of thought suffers from a constricted definitionof its subject. Constituent fields(marketing) cognate and fields(economics law) and areoftenneglected studies thesubject. term"thought" in of The tends be equated to to knowledge, thusgivena positivist and cast,or described instrumental in terms andthereby reduced a generalized to formof practice. history management The of thought, short,invitesmoreexpansive in treatment thanit hashitherto received. Thispaper explores potential the benefits an enlarged of definition. Thepaper focuses two economists, on EdwinGay of HarvardandRichard Ely of the University of Wisconsin,who influencedthe development of management thought, whose and careers illuminate aspects it that havebeen of neglected previous in histories. Bothareassociated institutions promoted with that scholarship, education, public and discourse about business itssocial and function-institutions whose in shaping role management thought received has little attention.
Both showed keeninterest therole of the statein economic a in life. Their advocacy

of regulatory fiscalpoliciessuggests ideasabouttechniques managing and that of grewupalongside ideas about politicalandsocial life, andthatin anysatisfactory account management of thought these strands two must interwoven. be Bothplayed a role in the professionalization economics theearlytwentieth of in century: their contribution management to thought highlights interconnections between two the fieldsthathaveyet to beexplored. Gay and Ely are not the most prominent figuresof their era, either in management education in anyof theotherfieldswith whichtheyareassociated. or Their intellectual commitments, however, representative thoseof manyof are of theircolleagues, the themes their workpointtowardan enlarged and of historyof management thoughtand a more nuancedaccountof how ideas about the administration business of haveinfluenced politics social and life. Gay, Ely, and the Influence of the German Historical School

The backgrounds both Gay and Ely point to an influenceon the of development management of thought hasnotbeen that studied depth. in Economists by profession, Gay andEly did graduate both work in Germany andwereattracted to Historical Economics, whichoffereda method andphilosophy very different fromtheneoclassical approach gaining then ground theUnitedStates. in Members of theHistorical School--Schmoller, Sombart, Weberamongothers--criticized and the classicalsystem overdependence deductive for on reasoning and urgedan inductive approach the studyof economic in forces.Historicaleconomists also
BUSINESSAND ECONOMIC HISTORY, Volume twenty-four, 1, Fall 1995. no. Copyright ¸1995 by theBusiness HistoryConference. ISSN 0849-6825.


promotedstate intervention economicaffairs and regardedthe principle of in laissez-faireas a veiled expression the self-interest business. of of The German economists' interestin the socialeffectsof business and in inductiveinquiry merged thefamous in series statistical of compilations published theVerein for by Sozialpolitik--anassociation scholars of committedto social reform and to the provision a factualfoundation publicpolicy. of for As Jones Monieson and pointoutin their studyof early marketing thought, studentsof the German historicaleconomists includedmany future leadersof American economics: besides andEly, these Gay include FrankTaussig Harvard, at HenryC. Adamsof Michigan, JohnBates ClarkandE.R.A. Seligman Columbia, of andEmoryJohnson, Joseph Johnson, RolandFaulkner, SimonPatten,andEdward Jones theWhartonSchool[10, p. 14; 14, p. 104]. Many of theGerman-trained at economists also played importantroles in the evolutionof management an as academic discipline. In the caseof Ely andGay, the mostimportant influence the Historical of School appearsto have been its stimulusto inductive work. Ely strongly emphasized empirical study economic of phenomena at Johns both Hopkins,where he taught afterreturning fromGermany, at theUniversityof Wisconsin, and where he spentmostof the restof his career.Ely encouraged students look to local to economicconditions for thesisand paper topics;studentwork on marketing institutions theeconomics publicutilitiesforeshadowed development and of the of several areas applied of economics p. 25; 14,p. 104].Jones Monieson [19, and note thatEly believed empirical practical the and emphasis hisGerman of training were essential just for the studyof economics alsofor business not but education. They point out that SamuelSparling,an early student Ely's who went on to teach of publicadministration to writeanearlytextbook business, and on "viewed marketing as part of the science business wouldbe developed usingan inductive, of that by comparative, historical approach" pp. 104-105]. [14, Gay, too, lookedto the localeconomy raw datafrom whichto construct for a theory business. of Industrialists invitedto address were classes, field tripsto and localfirmswereorganized. helped foundthe Bureauof Business Gay to Research, whichcollected statistics business on operations. accounting The practices instituted by theBureau ensure to consistent proved helpful proprietors data so that frequently adopted themasregular operating procedure. Bureau's The research influenced not onlymanagement practice, alsomanagement but education through publication of itsfamous series casestudies, of whichform an important partof the pedagogy of management downto thepresent [6, pp. 216-220]. day Though principle in empirical methods neednotentailcommitment social to action, both men were drawn inexorablytoward issues public policy and of ultimatelyto advocacy a larger role for government economiclife. The of in Historical School laid the intellectual had groundwork thistransition, for teaching that the ideaof a custodial statewasa specifically Englishcreation, theoretical a construct representation classinterest and of ratherthan a consequence the of naturalorderdiscoverable through objective study. Once the conceptof limited government had been called into question, government itself proved willing to supplyan alternative vision.While still in Germany.Ely wasrecruitedby United StatesAmbassador Andrew D. White, on leavefrom the presidency CornellUmversity,to conduct of studies the Berlin of city administration the nationalization Prussian and of railroads; idealizedhis Ely


subjects suchan extentthat White warnedagainstthe "generalsurrender to of individualism" hefeared that such extensive an bureaucracy mightentail[19, p. 15]. Ely, however,wasnot deterred the dangerof stateintervention. him, the by For facts of economiclife were to be considered the contextof a plastichuman "in nature anethical and ideal"[19, p. 25]. On return theUnitedStates, advocated to he public ownershipof natural monopolies,including railroads, purchaseby municipalities unused of land to socialize profitsof urbandevelopment, the and publicworksbureaus ensure employment. to full Serviceon tax commissions for theStateof MarylandandtheCity of Baltimoreallowedhim to suggest strategies for public finance couldultimately used fundsuch that be to projects. proposed He that propertytaxesshouldbe allocatedexclusivelyto local governmental units, whichcouldbe expected assess to property values morestringently; statelevel, at a graduated income wouldprovide moreampleandreliable tax a stream revenue. of Suchproposals significant because are not they were unusual the time-at politicians andeconomists alike debated similarmeasures--but ratherbecause of Ely'sposition thehistory management in of thought. Lookingbackto the originof management an academic as discipline, historians discover at leastoneof the will in field's early strandsan overarching ethical commitment and a zest for state interventionin economicaffairs quite different from the ethos implied by present-day definitions management represented recent of or in historical accounts of its development. Ely, the studyof business first thestudyof economic For was facts, construed include business to strategy,and second,the studyof the state action thatthose factsrequired. Modernorganizational theorynotwithstanding, the ideaof management thought a setof decision as tools,applied a dispassionate in search efficiency, for representsbreakfromoneof thefield'sfounding a traditions. Gay, too,wassympathetic thepopular to social reforms his day:asDean of
of the Harvard Graduate School of BusinessAdministration, he collaborated with

Henry Dennison,Chairmanof the BostonChamberof Commerce,to form the Massachusetts branch theAmerican of Association LaborLaws,whichpromoted of

legislation against childlaborandfor a minimum wageandworkers' compensation [9, pp. 89-90]. Gay's primary contribution an American-style to sozialpolitik, however,lay in the introduction statistical of methods government to agencies. In World War I, he served various on economic planning tradegroups, and addinghis expertiseto that of GeorgeGoethals, BernardBaruch,and HerbertHoover,and coordinating effortswith thoseof otherbusiness his facultymembers, including A.E. Swansonof Northwestern, C.K. Leith of Wisconsin,Henry Hatfield of Berkeley,andArch Shaw,Henry Dennison, Melvin Copeland Harvard[9, and of pp.98, 110].Eventually wasnamed President Gay by Wilsonto directtheCentral Bureauof Planning andStatistics, whichwasto ensure interagency coordination. After the war, Herbert Hoover, now Secretaryof Commerce,appointedGay, WesleyMitchell, anda number othereconomists his AdvisoryCommitteeon of to Statistics, whichurged "timelypublication dataonkey sectors theeconomy"-of of informationwhich Hoover believedcould help rationalize business planning, moderatecyclicalfluctuations, providea statistical and basisfor government stimulation theeconomy p. 8]. Thisadvisory of [3, committee a forerunner was of the National Bureauof Economic Research, whichGay andMitchell helpedto foundand whichHoover,as president, commissioned conduct to studies closely resembling thosethattheAdvisoryCommittee recommended p. 20]. had [3,


Economic controls duringwartimeand collectionof statistics time of in peace,it mightbe argued,do not in themselves constitute extension state an of authorityin economiclife. The Bureauwas not a government agency,and its reportsserved only an advisory function. Hooverhad proposed intervention no more drastic thanpostponementpublicworksprojects timesof boom,sothat of in the backlogof work could providea stimulative effect duringdownturns. Gay, however, reason knowthattheN.B.E.R. laid foundations a muchlarger had to for politicalshift.His closeassociate WesleyMitchell, Directorof Research the for Bureau, explicitly envisioned mixedeconomy, a with government planners playing a rolein directing private economic activity[15, p. 396]. Although progress toward thisgoalduringthe twentieswas modest, directionwas clearlydiscernible. the As WilliamBarber shown, has proponents moreexpansive of policies theNew Deal in citedHoover's activism precedent as [3]. That Gay, through his work at the N.B.E.R., helped to promote macroeconomic management notestablish tie between does a management thought andmacroeconomic policy,anymorethanmanagement thought be logically can linked to Ely's policyof publicownership railroads. in the caseof Ely, of As however,a moregeneralized connection between early management thought and thepolitical ideas itspromoters behypothesized. theeraof Gay andEly, of may In business prosperity generally was associated publicwelfare.By promoting with enterprise,business schoolscontributed the general good. Professional to management couldnot,however, solvetheproblem business of cycles. The belief arose that government could ameliorate the problem through well-timed 'expenditures. effect,somemanagers management In and scholars cameto believe that public spending was needed maintainbusiness to prosperity, which in turn served publicwelfare. the To whatextent Gay accepted viewis notclearfromHeaton's this biography or Barber's account the N.B.E.R. If he did acceptit, andif othermanagement of educators shared view,thenearlymanagement his thought mayhavedeveloped in conjunction with a political programthat has not previouslybeen articulatedin histories the field. Granted, of thatprogram may neverhavebeenannounced a as tenet of management theory.If it can be shown,however,that managers or management teachers scholars or promoted stimulative spending policies other or policies associated macroeconomic with planning, management then thought cannot be dissociated such program. a The example Gay suggests the possibility of that deserves exploration.
The Institutional Context of Management Thought

A study Gay's Ely'sinstitutional of and associations provides different a kind of insight theircontributions management into to thought. Theylefttheirimprint on universities professional and organizations profoundly that influenced education the of business leaders, direction research management the of on techniques, the and character publicdiscourse of about roleof business national the in life. This aspect of theirwork,too,suggests lines development thehistory management new of for of thought. Histories individual of institutions abound, withrareexceptions but [7], theirinfluence the development thought notbeenexamined. on of has Of the two men, it was Gay whoseinstitutional influencewas moredirect andtherefore moreeasilydescribed: washe. notEly, who actuallyfounded it and


led a business school. As first Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Business

Administration, helped establish number intellectual Gay to a of traditions still that

figure prominently management in research education. interest empirical and His in study, foundation theBureau Business his of of Research, hisemphasis the and on case method (originally problem the method) a basis business as for instruction have alreadybeenalludedto, and havein any casebeenamplydocumented the in literature management. otheraspects the earlybusiness of Two of curriculum at Harvard, however, suggest directions further for inquiry. The first of theseis law. Gay'sGermanexperience notwithstanding, the Harvard School theprimary Law was model thenewBusiness for School. Widely recognized the late 19thcentury the preeminent in as Americaninstitution its of kind,theLaw School already was educating many young mendestined business for careers. Melvin Copeland, hisofficialhistory theBusiness in of School, observes thatthe Socratic approach usedin theLaw School served the inspiration as for
Gay'sproblem method. Commercial Law wasoneof the first courses Business the
School offered; it conferred benefits both of relevance to a career in businessand

theconvenience published of court cases which wereeasily adaptable classroom to use[6, p. 28], presumably because emphasis competing their on arguments spurred class discussion because and theirdeductive logicalstructure congenial the was to problem approach wasdeveloping. echoes legaltraining management Gay The of in thought education, in research, and both teaching methods, institutional and forms, deserve furtherexploration. The role of law as constitutive markets of and state economic policysuggests another layerof significance such inquiry. for an A second suggestive aspect theHarvard of curriculum theparticipation is of Frederick Taylorandhisassociates. wentto considerable Gay lengths employ to Taylor asa lecturer Industrial in Organization, successfully overcoming Taylor's skepticism aboutthe valueof academic studyin a field dominated practical by problems.Jones and Monieson cite Taylor as a critical influence on the development a scientific of approach marketing. to The significance the scientific approachto problemsof human of organization been has widely acknowledged Historians [8]. havenotneglected the contributions engineers the development administrative of to of systems and financialand costaccounting pp. 95, 132, 465]. The contributions the [5, of national government alsobeen have noted, though political the implications its of role have not been examined. The government promoted both disciplines, sometimes conjunction in with one another.West Point was the site of the first engineering school.The Springfield Armory, a military supplier,pioneered techniques large-scale of production pp.72-75], whiletheWatertown [5, Arsenal provided famous casefor theapplication Taylorism whichhadbeen a test of [1], popularized earlier through expert testimony theEastern in RateCase[22, p. 143], anearlytestof government authority regulate to private economic activityandan unusually explicit instance government of promotion management of theory. Less explicit but morewidelyinfluential the longrun wasthe Morrill Act, which in allocated federal lands support to mechanical commercial and education. Whilethis acthas been identified a milestone thedevelopment higher as in of education the in UnitedStates, link to thecentralization political its of power received has little attention. acthadbeenblocked Southern The by states an unwarranted as intrusion of federal power, wasn't and finallypassed until 1862aftersecession. Government encouragementmanagement engineering depended a specific of and thus on and


debatable construction of the role of the state, which has not been considered in

previous work in thehistoryof management thought. Anotherneglected aspect government of influence thedevelopment in of management engineering its effecton theeconomy and is andon the structure of markets. Governmentencouragement management, of and especially of science-based management, usually centered verylarge-scale on enterprises, is and thus oftenassociated conditions monopoly, with of oligopoly, monopsony. or What aresometimes characterized attempts improve efficiency management as to the of seem haveproliferated to whereincentives efficiency to wereimpairedandto have contributed to their further impairment.A study of how science influenced management thought therefore requires assessment its effectson thesizeof an of organizations, effectsof the size of organizations the number market the on of participants, theeffectof market and structure thepoliticaldispositions firms on of andmanagers. While political influence thereorganization markets and of maynot be announcedgoals of management thought,they could still turn out to be preconditions or unanticipated for consequences its development, if so, of and important elements any account how it cameto be whatit is now. of of Engineering,in short,has had a complexinfluenceon the evolutionof management thought, its connection the state,andevenon the structure on to of markets. Although fact of engineering's the contribution well documented, is its politicalimplications have not beenexploredin depth.There is, to be sure, no evidence Gaypondered political that the implications engineering of whenhe hired Taylorto teachat theHarvardBusiness School. thehistorian management For of thought, however, fact thatGay recognized the Taylor'ssignificance thathe and pursuedand hired him justifies inquiry into the political implications this of connection.That Taylor stronglyinfluencedboth students and other faculty

members strengthens motivation such inquiry. for an ThatGaysubsequently went
to work for Hoover, and that he appliedthe scientificattitudein serviceto a politicalproject, wouldappear render project to the indispensable.
Ely, by contrast,never directeda business school.As first director of the

Universityof Wisconsin Schoolof Economics, had expected be given he to authority overthenewly-established School Commerce, waspassed of but overin favor of the moreconservative William A. Scott[19, p. 162]. Ely's institutional influence management on thought therefore direct was less than Gay's; approach his to teaching, in theGerman cast moldandemphasizing socialproblems ethical and ideals,may be regarded the road not takenfor management as education. Simon Patten, ScottNearing,andothers brieflyexperimented a similarapproach with at
theWhartonSchool,but soonfell afoul of local business leadersand trustees [20,

pp.91-126].Elsewhere, technocratic the approach embodied Gay andHarvard by generally prevailed. Ely, however,muststill be considered important an force both in the

development business of education in theevolution management and of thought. As noted above, research his interest helped thefoundations business lay for disciplines in the areasof marketing, publicutilities,andpublicadministration finance. and Perhaps moreimportant hiseffects individual are on students, manyof whomwent onto exercise influence theirownrightontheeconomic politicalthought in and of
the nation: Frederick JacksonTurner, Thomas Nixon Carver, Thorsten Veblen, WesleyMitchell, Albion Small, JohnR. Commons, andWoodrowWilson. Three
of his students--Albert Shaw, Newton D. Baker, and Frederick Howe--went on to


becomeprominent municipalreformers.Shaw edited the influentialReviewof
Reviews and became an advisor to Theodore Roosevelt. Baker served as Wilson's

Secretary War. Howe,whowenton to servein theNew Deal, wrotetellinglyto of Ely of theinspiration hadprovided: he
You disclosed to us the whole forest rather than a few trees which

constituted science political the of economy thepast, in andthatman
is something morethana merecovetous machine andthatthe science

which dealswith him in societyhaslargeraimsthanthe studyof rent, interest,wages,and value [19, p. 22]. Raderclaimsthat "[n]o professor politicaleconomy thecountry of in directedor helped directsomanyfutureleaders thesocial to in sciences" 26]. [p. Within the profession economics, wasa forcefulif not a dominant of Ely
presence.As a reformer, he contestedthe views of neoclassicists suchas Simon NewcombandWilliam GrahamSumner,who arguedfor an analyticaleconomics

whichavoided moralquestions about distribution wealth theresponsibility the of or of government protectthe poorand vulnerable. contributed to He energetically to popular discussion economicissues, of speakingout vigorouslyin supportof workers unions. and Takinghiscuefromhisfriendandfellow-student Germany in Charles BaxterAdams,founder the AmericanHistoricalAssociation, helped of he to found the AmericanEconomicAssociation, intendingit to counterbalance the
influence of Sumner and the other conservatives, who had founded the Political

Economy Club to promote neoclassical principles.In due course,however, moderation prevailed, the Association and dropped Ely'srestrictive statement of principles,which had beenintended excludethe conservatives. tried and to Ely failed to createotherorganizations progressive for economists, especially the in Western part of the country; his efforts, however, must be counted as encouragement sozialpolitik to and the survivalof the ethicalideal in the face of a
sometimes hostile academic climate.

Perhaps greatest the influence exercised, Ely however, washisworkat the University Wisconsin. of Following on hisinterest charities corrections, up in and he inauguratedcourse sociology, a in whichwas"notintended trainspecialists to but to preparestudents citizenship." for Lecturers from penalinstitutions were broughtto campus. raisedmoneyto support Ely student fieldworkin settlement houses other and charities. gavepubliclectures socialism, He on publicownership of utilities, and other controversial issues.He stimulated original research by students with his seminars, debateteams,and roundtable research meetings. He developed relationships stateagencies, with whichlaterformedthebasis close for cooperation between stategovernment theuniversity.In short,as Raderpoints and out, he laid the foundations the work of the next generation institutional for of economists: JohnR. Commons, CharlesMcCarthy, Albion Small, and Wesley Mitchell. In doing so, he did not exercise the kind of direct influence on management thought thatcanbe attributed Gay, but he did muchto encourage to cross-fertilizing influences to shape intellectual and the context withinwhichideas aboutmanagement developed.
Marketing, Management,and Economics


Gay and Ely have been claimedas pioneersin marketing,an area often excluded from thehistory management of thought, despite two fields'functional the interdependence. Gay's and Ely's diverseaccomplishments suggest that sucha distinction unrealistic. is Their careers, moreover,are not the only enticement that marketing holds to historians management out of thought. alsooffersa largebody It of its own historicaland philosophical scholarship. Marketershaveexploredthe

social implications theirdiscipline18], thehistorical of [ background marketing of theory[4, 14], andmarketing's epistemic foundations seenfrom theperspective as of the philosophy science[2, 12, 13, 16, 17]. Particularlyhelpful has been of marketers'recognition their debt to economics of [11]--an awareness which the intellectual historian management of woulddo well to heed. Attention economics criticalto the historyof management to is thoughtnot only because manymanagement scholars havebeentrained economists, also as but because economicideas have been importedinto management thoughtwithout examinationof the assumptions which they are based or consideration on of subsequent criticismof them in their field of origin. One obviousexampleis the institutionof markets,oftencharacterized management in thoughtin termsof the classicalnorm of pure competition, ready access, and wide dissemination of knowledge.As marketershave pointedout, however,this characterization is problematic.In a studyof how marketers conceptualize exchange, Houstonand Gassenheimer argue thattheactual strategies marketers theantithesis pure of are of competition:
[S]uccess a marketer escaping to is perfectcompetition .... Success is the gainingof the differential advantage, becoming monopolistic a competitoror, with enough finesse or prowess,maybe even a monopolist[11, p. 15].

Economists, theotherhand, saidto consider on are purecompetition idealcase, the because "resources allocated are efficiently customers getting and are theirproducts
at their least cost."

The contrast telling.Purecompetition be construed the failureof is can as management: under theseconditions,marketstightly constrainevery business decision leaveno scope strategy. followsthatmanagement's is to earn and for It task monopolyprofits; thus, its affinity for large enterprise,which tendsto restrict competition makemonopoly and profitsmoreeasilyattainable, and its questfor political influence andstatesponsorship, whichpermitescape from the restraints of markets. Suchan understanding business of behavior, fact,corresponds in closely witha tradition economic of analysis, mentioned Houston Gassenheimer, not by and whichbeginswith the Frencheconomist Cournotand is elaborated the work of in Sraffaand Robinson EnglandandEdwardChamberlinin the United States. in As Schumpeter characterizes tradition,it treatsmonopolistic this competition the as normratherthana deviation;puremonopolyand pure competition viewedas are degenerate cases whichoneof thetwo essential in characteristics marketsdrives of out the otherand incentives competition to and enterprise destroyed are [21, pp. 1151-52]. If management thoughtcan be shownto imply sucha view, then the field'sethicalfoundations well as historians' as account the motives its leading of of figures maybe duefor revision. Suchtime-honored concepts consumer as choice,


thelevelplaying field,andfreeflowof information beconvenient may rhetorically, butcanscarcely saidto be an important of theagenda management. be part of

Study of the careersof Edwin Gay and RichardEly suggests several directionsfor explorationin the history of management thought.First, it demonstrams importance interdisciplinary the of connections, especially thearea in

of economics law.Second, illuminates roleof institutions shaping and it the in management thought, directly, both through promotion education research, of and andindirectly, through environmental influence. Third,it shows thepolitical that
dimensionof management thoughtmay be more significantthan has been recognized previous in accounts.

Whether notthese or aspects thesubject of receive attention appear the they to meritdepends partonhowthemanagement in thought defined historians. is by If it is equated eitherto knowledge to practice, or thenthe interdisciplinary, institutional, politicalaspects the subject and of will tendto drop out of the historical narrative. Evena cursory reviewof Gay'sandEly'scareers, however, shows undesirability such result. the of a Anyaccount segregated activities that their intodisciplinary categories would explain littleaboutwhattheythought did so and andcontributed thehistory management to of thought it couldscarcely said that be
to constitute a historical narrative.

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