CFP: EGOS 2017 Sub-Theme 44: Rethinking History, Rethinking Business Schools

18 11 2016

Sub-theme 44: Rethinking History, Rethinking Business Schools

Convenors: Michael Rowlinson University of Exeter, United Kingdom;; Mads Mordhorst, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark; Ellen S. O’Connor, Dominican University of California, USA

Call for Papers

The EGOS Colloquium in 2017 coincides with the 100th anniversary of Copenhagen Business School (CBS), which will be commemorated in part by the publication of a history of the Business School written by members of the Centre for Business History at CBS. This coincidence provides an opportunity to rethink both the role of history in business schools, as well as the history of business schools themselves, along with the part played by management and organization studies within that history.

Both business schools and organization studies have sought to legitimate themselves through history in relation to older disciplines in the university. Textbooks regularly claim Max Weber as a founder for the so-called “Classical School” of management and organization studies even though Weber himself could never have been an adherent of such a school because it was only invented, along with organization studies, long after he died (Cummings & Bridgman, 2011). When Harvard Business School was facing criticism in the 1930s for the banality of management research, one response from the Dean, Wallace B. Donham, was to hire a historian to study management and to use a donation from the retailer Gordon Selfridge to buy historical business documents from Italy relating to the Medici family during the Renaissance (O’Connor, 2012, p. 58).

History frames discussions about the purpose and future of business schools in general (e.g.: Khurana, 2007; Khurana & Spender, 2012; Locke & Spender, 2011), and of particular practices such as the use of case studies (Bridgman, Cummings, & McLoughlin, 2015). The history of business schools is therefore necessarily contested, for example with the association between management and slavery coming under increasing scrutiny (Cooke, 2003; Roediger & Esch, 2012; Ruef, 2008). This raises questions not only about the historiography of business schools but also about the role of history in debates about the future of business schools.

In the ongoing dialogue between business historians and organization theorists (Bucheli & Wadhwani, 2014; Rowlinson et al., 2014; Godfrey et al., 2016; Greenwood & Bernardi, 2014) there tends to be a division of labor whereby theory comes from organization studies and business historians explain how to use historical sources and methods. The challenge for rethinking history in organization studies is whether these roles can be combined or even reversed, as they have been occasionally in previous collaborations (e.g. Whipp & Clark, 1986).

We encourage submissions that rethink the history of business schools, especially if new insight is gained from using theoretical concepts from organization studies. We also welcome submissions that rethink the role of history in business schools in general and particularly in organization studies, either in relation to research or the curriculum.


Bridgman, T., Cummings, S., & McLoughlin, C. (2015): The Case Method as Invented Tradition: Revisiting Harvard’s History to reorient management education. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Conference, Vancouver.
Bucheli, M., & Wadhwani, R.D. (eds.) (2014): Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cooke, B. (2003): “The denial of slavery in management studies.” Journal of Management Studies, 40 (8), 1895–1918.
Cummings, S., & Bridgman, T. (2011): “The relevant past: Why the history of management should be critical of our future.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10 (1), 77–93.
Godfrey, P, Hassard, J., O’Connor, E., Rowlinson, M., & Ruef, M. (2016): “What is Organizational History? Towards a Creative Synthesis of History and Organization Studies.” Academy of Management Review, 41 (4), October.
Greenwood, A., & Bernardi, A. (2014): “Understanding the rift, the (still) uneasy bedfellows of history and organization studies.” Organization, 21 (6), 907–932.
Khurana, R. (2007): From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Khurana, R., & Spender, J.C. (2012): “Herbert A. Simon on What Ails Business Schools: More than ‘A Problem in Organizational Design’.” Journal of Management Studies, 49 (3), 619–639.
Locke, R.R., & Spender, J.C. (2011): Confronting Managerialism: How the Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance. London: Zed Books.
O’Connor, E.S. (2012): Creating New Knowledge in Management: Appropriating the Field’s Lost Foundations. Stanford, CA: Stanford Business Books.
Roediger, D.R., & Esch, E.D. (2012): The Production of Difference. Race and the Management of Labor in U.S. History. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rowlinson, M., Hassard, J., & Decker, S. (2014): “Research strategies for organizational history: A dialogue between historical theory and organization theory.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (3), 250–274.
Ruef, M. (2008): “Rakesh Khurana: From higher aims to hired hands: The social transformation of American business schools and the unfulfilled promise of management as a profession.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 53 (4), 745–752.
Whipp, R., & Clark, P. (1986): Innovation and the Auto Industry. London: Frances Pinter.

Michael Rowlinson is Professor of Management & Organizational History in the University of Exeter Business School, UK. He has played an important part in the “historic turn” in organization studies. He was the editor for ‘Management & Organizational History’ (2008–2013) and is currently a Senior Editor for ‘Organization Studies’ as well as a co-editor for the Special Topic Forum of the ‘Academy of Management Review’ on “History and Organization Studies: Toward a Creative Synthesis”.

Mads Mordhorst is Associate Professor at the Department for Management, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, and Director of Centre for Business History and Head of the CBS initiative “Rethinking History at Business Schools”. His research focuses on business history from a cultural and historical perspective with an emphasis on identity construction. He is editor of two forthcoming special issues, “Towards a Narrative Turn in Business History?” and “Uses of the Past: History and Memory in Organizations and Organizing” in ‘Business History’ and ‘Organization Studies’, respectively.

Ellen S. O’Connor is Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Leadership Studies, Barowsky School of Business, Dominican University of California, USA. She studies classical management texts and the history of business schools and management education. Currently, she is working on a book about chief executives who wrote management and organization theory.



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