My Papers at the Academy of Management 2017

4 08 2017

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I have two papers on the program of the 2017 Academy of Management conference in Atlanta. The first paper is “Berle and Means’ The Modern Corporation and Private Property: an Elitist Stakeholder Model of Corporate Governance” and was co-authored with Kevin Tennent (University of York Management School) and Jason Russell (Empire State College). The second paper, “Resisting Colonialism: Indigenous Social Activists Challenge the Rhetorical History Strategy of a Canadian Conglomerate”, was co-authored with Daniel Simeone, a rising star of a PhD student at McGill.

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The first paper provides a critical reinterpretation of a seminal work. The Modern Corporation and Private Property by Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means (1932) remains of the most cited works in management. Berle and Means, who were important members of the FDR Brains Trust, espoused a stakeholder theory of corporate governance that challenged the,  then-hegemonic idea that the sole purpose of a corporation is to create value for the shareholders. In recent years, a variety of progressive academics have advocated a return to the stakeholder approach to corporate governance advocated by Berle and Means. While we share the concerns of these authors about shareholder value ideology, we wish to point out some of the problems with the particular variant of stakeholder theory advocated by Berle and Means was a decidedly paternalistic one in which upper-echelon managers would rule firms in the interests of workers, shareholders, and other stakeholders but without such stakeholders have a direct voice in the management of the company. The Berle-Means variant of stakeholder theory was thus different from the rival proposals for industrial democracy, whereby the interests of workers and other non-shareholder stakeholders would be safeguarded through institutional mechanisms such as elected representatives on corporate boards.  In the 1920s, there were many such proposals in the United States and Americans seriously considered introducing workplace democracy up until the New Deal, which saw the passage of legislation that effectively outlawed such experiments. The paper will be part of a panel on Historic Management Thinkers & Theorists, Monday, 7 August 2017 9:45AM – 11:15AM, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Inman room.

 

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The second paper is designed to speak to ongoing debates over rhetorical history and the corporate use of the past. In particular, we discuss the issue of corporate responsibility for historical misdeeds, an issue of global relevance that has been the subject of an excellent recent paper in the AMR. Our paper uses the experience of a single firm, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), to refine our understanding of how managers modify corporate historical narratives are in response to pressure from social activists and to shifts in the wider culture. Founded in 1670, the HBC is one of the oldest firms in the Western world. Since the start of the twentieth century, the organization has referred frequently to its history in its communication with consumers, workers, and other stakeholders. Since the 1960s, the HBC’s rhetorical history strategy has been adapted in response to profound changes in how Canadians remember their national past, with increasing attention being paid to the experiences of women, workers, racialized minorities and the nation’s Indigenous peoples, including the native groups that had traded with the HBC for centuries. By showing how one corporation’s use of rhetorical history has evolved, this paper will deepen our understanding of how cultural and political context influence how corporations use of the past. The paper documents how the HBC responded to social activists who contested the firm’s version of history by creating their own counter-narratives. You can hear me present the paper on Tuesday, 8 August 8 2017 11:30AM – 1:00PM at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Embassy Hall A. The paper will be part of a panel on Social Concerns and Management History.

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