Manufacturing Rationality: The Engineering Foundations of the Managerial Revolution

By Yehouda Shenhav | Go to book overview

traditional engineering specialty of their academic curricula ( Merrick 1980). The practice and discourse of management had assumed lives of their own, dissociated from their political and ideological origins. During the 1920s American Machinist continued its mission to increase the legitimacy of industrial management and its experts. For example, the magazine asked twelve of the best-known consulting management engineers -- among them Frederick Miller, Dwight Merrick, Charles Knoeppel, Wallace Clark, Dwight Farnham, and Harrington Emerson -- to provide the readers with standards of management ( American Machinist, 4 January 1923: 21-7).

In this chapter 1 have shown that the newly born management movement nurtured by the engineering community faced enormous opposition from within as well as from without. There was, however, yet another major problem in the way of management systems: industrial unrest. In the next chapter 1 explain how engineers and management activists turned the problem around and used industrial unrest to their advantage. The struggles described in this chapter and the subsequent ones suggest that the efforts of the systematizers to develop managerial systems should not be viewed simply as an extension of capitalist thought (see also Stark 1980). It was a much more complicated ideological process. The relevance of labor politics to this process, as the following chapters show, cannot be overemphasized.


Notes
1
It should be noted again that Chandler, Williamson, and Edwards represent very different theoretical perspectives. Chandler assigns a prominent role to technology and market needs; Williamson to the cost of transactions and to trust and uncer- tainty among different organizational participants; and Edwards contradicts the peaceful picture of evolutionary theorists by applying a neo-Marxist view according to which employers chapduced organization systems in order to control labor. Nevertheless, they all share the two assumptions which I challenge in this chapter.
2
Conflictual perspectives on the nature of industrial rationalization have been proposed by Kolko 1963; Fligstein 1990; Roy 1990, 1997; Guillen 1994.
3
The conflict within managerial circles (to be shown below) refutes the theory of cyclical changes in managerial rhetoric over the course of the century (see Barley and Kunda 1992). This theory suggests that in each historical era one can identify a clear and coherent managerial ideology. Given the evidence about internal dissensions, it is clear that each historical period should not be viewed as ideologically homoge- neous, and should not be viewed as representing a coherent scheme. Management activists are not all cut of the same cloth and the description of one dominant ideol- ogy per period conceals variations and conflicts that took place within each period. Abrahamson's data (1997) support this contention which runs counter to Barley and Kundds argument about the repeated shifts between rational and normative rhetoric.

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