EH.Net Review of Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods

22 07 2014

EH.Net has published my review of Marcelo Bucheli and R. Daniel Wadhwani, editors. Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. xii + 338 pp. $83 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-19-964689-0.

How should history be incorporated into the curriculum of business schools? What type of historical research should be published in top-tier management school journals?  What can mainstream organization studies scholars learn from the research methodologies of historians? These are some of the fundamental questions that this edited collection raises.

Read more here.


Ronald Kroeze and Sjoerd Keulen on Why CEOs Value History

21 07 2014

In their great article on organizational memory and invented traditions in Dutch multinationals, Ronald Kroeze and Sjoerd Keulen discuss the interviews they had with Dutch CEOs. They report that all of the executives they spoke to “acknowledge the usefulness of history when managing organisations.” In other words, thinking historically made them better businesspeople.  

Moreover, all of their interviewees were pleased that academic historians were willing to listen and give them the opportunity to tell their side of the story. Kroeze and Keulen suggests that this “proves the demand for a historical approach towards business leadership and organisations.”

This is very encouraging news. It fits with my understanding of how many CEOs in other countries operate.  Moreover, it speaks to some of the issues discussed in Behlül  Üsdiken and Matthias Kipping. “History and organization studies: A long-term view.” Organizations in time. History, theory, methods (2014): 33-55.

Ronald Kroeze and Sjoerd Keulen, “Leading a multinational is history in practice: The use of invented traditions and narratives at AkzoNobel, Shell, Philips and ABN AMRO,” Business History 55, no. 8 (2013): 1265-1287.

Call for Papers – “Canada and the Great War”

21 07 2014

Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex, April 28th-30th, 2015


The UK campus of Ontario’s Queen’s University’s (see picture above)  is hosting a conference entitled “Canada and the Great War”. The conference will take place in April of 2015, 100 years after the first use of gas by Germany at the Second Battle of Ypres. The conference will explore a broad range of subjects associated with Canada’s role in WWI and the war’s impact upon a young nation at a crossroads. Established scholars, graduate students and professionals are all invited to submit proposals on topics related, but not limited to, any of the following:

  • Canada and Mobilization
  • The Canadian Experience in the Trenches
  • Canada and the Literature of the Great War
  • Canada’s Role in Relation to Its’ Place within the British Empire
  • Provincial Differences in commitment to the War Effort
  • Newfoundland and the Great War
  • The Battles of Ypres, Vimy and Passchendaele
  • The Canadian Homefront
  • Canadian Training and Leadership
  • Canadian Identity and the Great War
  • The Canadians in Britain

Proposals (250 word Maximum) should include a working title and brief overview of the paper’s aims and objectives, along with a short biographical note. The deadline for submissions is October 15th, 2014. Proposals for full panels (3-4 papers) and round tables are welcome. It is expected that a selection of the papers will appear together in published form.

Proposal submissions and requests for further conference details should be sent to: 

Dr. Scott McLean, Queen’s University – Bader International Study Centre, Herstmonceux Castle

Hailsham, East Sussex, United Kingdom, BN27 1RN



1864 and 2014: Charlottetown and Quebec City

20 07 2014

This year marks the 150th anniversary of two crucial meetings that led to Confederation in 1867. I’m referring to the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences. In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, political scientist Antonia Maioni notes that the while Charlottetown is going into overdrive to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown conference, much less has been done to commemorate the equally important meetings in Quebec City. She writes:

Indeed, this year is historically important because it marks the 150th anniversary of the two conferences that would shape the form and content of what we know as Canada. In PEI, the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 has become a cottage industry: The scene of Sir John A. Macdonald and his Canadian colleagues crashing the Maritime union party with a boatload of champagne is the stuff of legend. And Charlottetown has made sure that those iconic whiskered gentlemen live on and on, with the federal government’s help.

Still, if the devil is in the details, it’s the Quebec Conference of 1864 that should be riveting our attention. Quebec, the capital of the then United Canada, is where the resolutions about the actual constitutional framework were hammered out..,

Which may be why, at least compared to Charlottetown, there is relatively little in the way of celebration in Quebec City to mark this historic date. 

Professor Maioni’s point is basically correct, but I think that she is overlooking the conference on the Quebec Conference that will be taking place at Quebec City’s Museum of Civilization, October 16-18.

I’m going to be presenting on business, capitalism, and resistance to Confederation in the third session.

I’ve pasted the programme below.




First Session: The Legal and Political Context

Janet Ajzenstat
Writing Constitutional Law

Rachel Chagnon
The Founders of Confederation and the B.N.A. Act : their Visions and Models of Constitutionalism

Marc Chevrier
Making a Dominion, or the Completion of a Conquest

Phillip Buckner
Canadian Constitution-Making in the British World


Second Session: The Key Actors

Éric Bédard
The Anguishes of Joseph Édouard Cauchon

Guy Laforest
Georges-Étienne Cartier and the Renaissance of Quebec’s Autonomy

Christopher Moore
A Large Group in a Small Room: Multi-Party Dynamics at the Quebec Conference

Bruce Ryder
The Quebec Resolutions and the Birth of a Quasi-Federal State

Paul Romney
George Brown and Oliver Mowat on the Quebec Resolutions and Confederation : What They Said and What They Meant

Third Session: The Opponents

Louis-Georges Harvey
Confederation and Corruption : The Republican Critique of Canadian Confederation in Quebec

Stéphane Kelly
The Opposition to Federal Union in Lower Canada: Economic Arguments

Speaker to be confirmed


Fourth Session: The Moral Foundations

Robert Vipond
The Quebec Resolutions and the Ideas Left Behind

André Burelle
Perspectives of a Personalist-Communitarian Philosopher on the 1864 Quebec Conference

François Rocher
Opposing the 1864 Confederation Project : some Critiques of the Goals of the Regime


Fifth Session: Assessing the Historiography

Michael Behiels
« Déjà vu all over again » : Revising the English-Language Historiography of Canada’s Confederation Movement, 1865-1867 and beyond

Claude Couture
French-Language Historiography and the Quebec Conference

Anne Trépanier
Imaginations of a Canada in Becoming

Closing Remarks

The Industrial Revolution That Never Was

19 07 2014

Harvard Business Review:

Marc Levinson tells us the tale of an ironworks that was ahead of its tim.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Every schoolchild learns that the industrial revolution began in England. Forests have been felled to demonstrate why England, and only England, had the culture and institutions to be the birthplace of modern industrial capitalism in the late 1700s. Yet the creation of large-scale factories nearly began not in England, but in Great Britain’s American colonies, 250 years ago. The American version failed miserably, because culture and institutions were not enough to kindle an economic revolution.

It was in June of 1764 that a merchant named Peter Hasenclever landed in New York with plans to build a network of factories unlike any the world had seen. Hasenclever, then 48, had been an international businessman almost since birth. He had grown up in northwestern Germany, where his father owned mills that heated small amounts of charcoal and iron together to make steel that could be hammered and sharpened into knife blades. He…

View original 1,352 more words

James C. Scott, F.A. Hayek, and Organization Studies

18 07 2014



Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson have been posting a series of blog posts on the ideas of James C. Scott, the author of  Seeing Like a State and The Art of Not Being Governed. I believe that Scott is one of the most important social thinkers around today.  Scott’s paradigm blends the best of conservative and left-wing insights. Scott transcend the left-right political spectrum we use to categorize thinkers.  As Brad De Long has shown, Scott’s ideas incorporate a variety of insights from F.A. Hayek and Austrian economics.






Back in 2007, De Long wrote this about Scott’s Seeing Like a State:

 Heaven knows that I am no Austrian–I am a liberal Keynesian and a social democrat–but within economics even liberal Keynesian social democrats acknowledge that the Austrians won victory in their intellectual debate with the central planners long ago.


This book marks the final stage because it shows the spread of what every economist would see as “Austrian ideas” into political science, sociology, and anthropology as well.


No one can finish reading Scott without believing–as Austrians have argued for three-quarters of a century–that centrally-planned social-engineering is not an appropriate mechanism for building a better society.

De Long mentions that Hayekian ideas have gone mainstream in political science, sociology, and anthropology.  I’m convinced that the ideas of Scott and Hayek also offer a lot to management academics in the field of organizations studies. (I’m actually working, on and off, on a paper on that subject. I suppose I’ll present it at EGOS next year). Anyway, there are signs of growing interest in Scott’s paradigm on the part of people who study large companies. Consider this article:

James Ferguson, “Seeing like an oil company: space, security, and global capital in neoliberal Africa.” American anthropologist 107, no. 3 (2005): 377-382.

As the title suggests, the author draws on Scott’s ideas to understand not a state but another type of organization that replaces market with hierarchy, namely, a big vertically-integrated oil company.

Last year, Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein published a paper called “Hayek and Organizational Studies.” I have tremendous respect for both Foss and Klein and I liked this paper, which discussed the impact of Hayek’s ideas on people in Organization Studies. They listed Hayek’s direct and indirect influence on the field. For instance, they show that the knowledge management concept and knowledge-based view of the firm are based on Hayekian ideas. There was, in view, a serious omission from their paper in that they don’t mention Scott, who has been a conduit for the transmission of clearly Hayekian ideas to a range of scholars of organization, particularly those who are associated with the Critical Management Studies tradition.  I’ve often thought that the intellectual traditions of Austrian economics and CMS are very similar in a number of ways. I think that Scott is a bridge between these two camps.


Update: I’m including this cool video in which Scott talks about his research.

Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future

17 07 2014


I’m reblogging this Time article about the Maker Movement by Tim Bajarin. Most of the article is pretty boiler-plate stuff that were hear from supporters of the Maker Movement: it’s going to revitalise the economy, liberate the Little Guy, dethrone Big Business, and allow the US to compete with China. The really interesting part of the article is where Bajarin uses historical analogy to understand the current state of the Maker Movement. He writes:

One of the people who really understands the Maker Movement is Zach Kaplan, the CEO of Inventables, which is an online hardware store for designers in the Maker Movement. I think of his site as a kind of Amazon for Makers.

I met Kaplan at the recent TED conference in Vancouver, where he told me about the history of the Maker Movement and its culture… he likened the Maker Movement at the moment to where we were with the Apple II back in 1979. He said that in those days, the computer clubs and tech meetings fueled interest in tech and got thousands interested in software programming, semiconductor design and creating tech-related products. Of course, this begat the PC industry and the tech world we live in today.

Notice how Bajarin is using history to understand the current state of the Maker Movement and to predict its future.

Originally posted on TIME:

I grew up in the age of Tinker Toys and Erector Sets. Both were meant to inspire me to be a maker instead of a consumer.

My first real tool was a wood-burning engraver that had such a short chord it was almost impossible to use. When I started using it, I burned myself more than once and nearly started a fire at the house. How in the world they sold this to kids in those days is now a mystery to me.

I was in Silicon Valley in the late 1970s, and I started to get more interested in the Homebrew Computer Club and similar user groups where people could get together and talk about tech-related interests. This was how I first got interested in computers.

Along the way, the idea of creating technology got sidelined as I instead started to write about it, chronicling its history. This led…

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Lessons from the financial preparations in the lead-up to the first world war

16 07 2014

by Harold James, 9 July 2014

Abstract: The 1907 panic affected the world, demonstrating the fragility of the international financial system. This column discusses the steps the US and Germany took in fortifying their financial systems following 1907. There is a link between the financial crisis and the escalation of diplomatic relations that led to war in 1914. And this link has implications for today as the world is recovering from the 2008 crisis.

Read the full article here.

The Historical Consciousness of the Academic Literature on Commons-based Peer Production

16 07 2014



As readers of this blog will know, I’m interested in constitutive historicism (i.e., the ways in competing perceptions of history structure decision-making in the present). There is a large body of literature that examines how historical facts, historical factoids, historical analogies, and historical meta-narratives shape the thinking of people in different domains, such as the making of US foreign policy (see book cover below).


One of my current research projects examines the use of historical analogy by people involved in particular type of technology-based start-up. As I’ve read through the academic literature on open innovation and commons-based peer production (think of Linux and also Wikipedia), I’ve been struck by how frequently academics use ideas about different types of history (e.g., world history, US history, the history of technology, business history) to understand the new part of the economy.


Consider Yochai Benkler’s seminal 2002 article  “Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and” The Nature of the Firm“.” Yale Law Journal (2002): 369-446. Benkler argues that we have entered a new era in the history of innovation in which the old model, whereby innovation was done in-house by for-profit corporations, is becoming obsolete.  In the following paragraph, which references key personalities in post-war US history, Benkler makes this point.

Imagine that back in the days when what was good for GM was good for the
country an advisory committee of economists had recommended to the President of
the United States that the federal government should support the efforts of volunteer
communities to design and build their own cars, either for sale or for free distribution
to automobile drivers. The committee members would probably have been locked up
in a psychiatric ward—if Senator McCarthy or the House Un-American Activities
Committee did not get them first. Yet, in September of 2000, something like this in
fact happened. The President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee
recommended that the federal government back open source software as a strategic
national choice to sustain the U.S. lead in critical software development.


One of the interesting things about this paragraph is that Benkler, who is originally from Israel, assumes a fair amount of knowledge about US history on the part of the readers of the Yale Law Review. Although he does not feel the need to refer to him by name, Benkler alludes to General Motors CEO Charles Erwin Wilson in his first paragraph. In the 1950s and the 1960s, a statement attributed to Wilson “what’s good for General Motors is good for the United States” went viral and became part of the consciousness of many Americans. Today, many Americans believe that some General Motors executive once uttered these words back during the Cold War. This factoid shapes how they thing about the world. Of course, Wilson never actually said the exact words that have been attributed to him, but for the purposes of Benkler’s argument, the important thing is most readers of the Yale Law Review probably think that some suit from GM said it.

If you want more information about what Wilson actually said and did, including the major cuts to spending on defence contracts he made after 1953, you may wish to check out William M. McClenahan Jr and William H. Becker. Eisenhower and the Cold War Economy. JHU Press, 2011, especially pages 21, 48.

Becker, Eisenhower and the Cold War




I’m not saying that the overall argument of Benkler’s article is wrong.  I’m certainly not saying that Benkler (see below) deliberately set out to impart inaccurate historical information to his readers. I’m certain that Benkler, like most educated Americans, believes in the accuracy of the mythical Wilson quote.  I’m more interested in the fact that he and many other people use the familiar world of history to try to understand the brave new world of open source software.





Mark Casson’s The Entrepreneur at 30

16 07 2014


I find that I’m citing Mark Casson with increasing frequency, so I thought I would re-post Peter Klein’s interesting blog post about Casson’s ideas.

Someone once said to me that Casson would have received the Nobel Prize already if he were American. I don’t know if that’s true, but he is certainly a major figure in a number of fields.

Originally posted on Organizations and Markets:

| Peter Klein |

2012 marked the 30th anniversary of Mark Casson’s classic work The Entrepreneur: An Economic Theory. Casson was one of the first economists since Frank Knight to elaborate on the role that uncertainty and judgment play in entrepreneurial decisions. Casson’s book offers not only a critique of the theories of competition and the firm offered in neoclassical microeconomics, but also a positive theory of the entrepreneur as a judgmental decision-maker under uncertainty. Casson’s work had a strong influence on the Foss-Klein approach to entrepreneurship, as well as Dick’s work on the theory of the firm.

Sharon Alvarez, Andrew Godley, and Mike Wright have written a nice tribute to The Entrepreneur in the latest edition of the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal.

Mark Casson’s The Entrepreneur: An Economic Theory (1982) has become one of the most influential books in the field of entrepreneurship. For the first time, this article outlines…

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