Organisations in Action: Competition between Contexts

By Peter Clark | Go to book overview

9

American exceptionalism

INTRODUCTION

For most of the twentieth century American corporate practices and theories about organising have been regarded by everyone as best practice at the leading edge of capitalism (Chandler 1962; Locke 1996). The discourse of ‘how to organise’ has preoccupied the business schools and social science communities. In the modern period that discourse seemed to be neutral with respect to the singularities of any nation. So, when Crozier (1964, 1973), a great admirer of American life, identified the problems of transferring these practices outside the USA his analysis was marginalised and subsumed within abstract general frameworks (e.g. Perrow 1987; Clark 1979). The French have been active in drawing attention to the kinds of problem which might arise in the misapplication of US practices. Awareness of American exceptionalism in the business school was stimulated by Hofstede’s (1980) research and his interpretations. However, as Locke (1996) observed, rather pessimistically and perhaps prematurely, the best-known American practices were being overtaken by new ways of organising from Japan. Paradoxically, it is the performance of Japanese firms that has so impressed the faculty of the American business school rather than that of German business and management.

Why choose American exceptionalism as the title of the chapter? As indicated in the previous three chapters the depth of this exceptionalism makes the USA a very special player in the ‘competition between contexts’. Some Americans tend to think of themselves as being markedly different from their European cousins (Lipset 1996), especially those from backgrounds in the arts, humanities and cultural studies. Yet in business schools there is a strong tendency to construct universalistic models and frameworks. Likewise, American corporations often assume that their movement from the domestic market into the global market can readily subsume Canada and the UK in an ‘Anglo-American’ world view. In the case of the UK there has been a very considerable market for American consultancies and for embodied knowledge in hardware (e.g. computing equipment) and in software for co-ordinating and auditing the firm (Clark 1987; Clark and Newell 1993). American firms in the UK manufacturing sector are reported to be the most productive (McKinsey 1998).

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Organisations in Action: Competition between Contexts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations ix
  • Part I - New Political Economy 1
  • 1 - Two Themes, Three Disciplines and Five Perspectives 3
  • 2 - From Modernism to Neo-Modern Political Economy 17
  • 3 - Organisation Theory 37
  • 4 - Structuration, Domain Theory and the Realist Turn 66
  • Notes 86
  • 5 - Organisation Economics and Economic Sociology 87
  • Part II - Competition Between Contexts 107
  • 6 - Long-Term Political Economy 109
  • 7 - National Innovation-Design Systems 133
  • 8 - Nations 158
  • 9 - American Exceptionalism 180
  • 10 - Sectoral Clusters and Competition Between Contexts 194
  • Part III - Firms 211
  • 11 - Resource-Based Strategic Analysis 213
  • Notes 229
  • 12 - Contingent Recurrent Action Patterns and Repertoires 230
  • 13 - Knowledges 249
  • 14 - Morphogenesis/Stasis 267
  • Part IV - Zones of Manoeuvre 289
  • 15 - Organisational Management and Zones of Manoeuvre 291
  • Bibliography 314
  • Index 339
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