The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change: North American Business Schools after the Second World War

The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change: North American Business Schools after the Second World War

The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change: North American Business Schools after the Second World War

The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change: North American Business Schools after the Second World War

Synopsis

Some rather remarkable changes took place in North American business schools between 1945 and 1970, altering the character of these institutions, the possibilities for their future, and the terms of discourse about them. This period represents a minor revolution, during which business school are reported to have become more academic, more analytic, and more quantitative.

The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change considers these changes and explores their roots. It traces the origins of this quiet revolution and shows how it shaped discussions about management education, leading to a shift in that weakened the place of business cases and experiential knowledge and strengthened support for a concept of professionalism that applied to management.

The text considers how the rhetoric of change was organized around three core questions: Should business schools concern themselves primarily with experiential knowledge or with academic knowledge? What vision of managers and management should be reflected by business schools? How should managerial education connect its teaching to some version of reality?

Excerpt

This is a study of North American business schools during a period, 1945–1970, that is rapidly fading from recollection. It is a period worth remembering, though the number of people capable of doing so is dwindling fast. One of us was not born until after 1970; the other of us lived through the period as a young man, part of it as a faculty member in a business school, but finds that most of the others who did so are either dead or remarkably elderly now.

We have relied heavily on the traces left in writings, archives, and memories of those who were there and of those who have tried subsequently to understand the period, conscious that the records are incomplete, that they are filled with willful and unconscious biases, and that our interpretation of them is only one of many possible interpretations.

We are indebted to numerous colleagues and friends who have contributed to this project. In particular, we owe major debts to the Cynthia and John Reed Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Copenhagen Business School for generous financial support that has made it all possible. We give our thanks to the institutions and also to the individuals involved in approving the grants, particularly John Reed, Finn Junge-Jensen, and Gail Pesyna.

The Stanford University School of Education and the Stanford Graduate School of Business have also provided invaluable support. The Graduate School of Business has provided a small, but flexible, research fund and access to the school’s archives. The School of Education has kindly housed us during the time of the project, and we are grateful for the hospitality and many effective efforts to make our lives easier. We appreciate particularly the thoughtfulness of Ona Andre, Deborah Belanger, and Deborah Stipek.

A substantial debt is also owed to the archives and archivists of the University of Chicago, the Ford Foundation, George Washington University . . .

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