THE VISIBLE HAND: The Managerial Revolution in American Business by Alfred D. Chandler

THE VISIBLE HAND: The Managerial Revolution in American Business

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A long look at big business in America from the 1840s to the 1920s, a period when large enterprises run by salaried executives replaced small family firms as stewards of the country's key commercial activities--production and distribution. The author's dominant, if not altogether original, theme is that economic necessities mothered a new generation of inventive managers who took the reins from Adam Smith's ""invisible hand of market forces."" These proto-organization men originated such techniques as assembly-line manufacturing, advertising campaigns to stimulate demand, national sales networks, mergers integrating corporate operations or eliminating competition, and, often, savage price rivalry. The way of the new administrators was greased, Chandler notes, by the enthusiasm of Wall Street financiers who found increasingly less profit dealing in the securities of railroad, telegraph, and telephone systems that originally opened mass markets. Supporting his case are detailed case studies of, among others, Duke's American Tobacco, Armour, McCormick Harvester, Singer Sewing Machine, and Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust. Chandler observes, moreover, that the appurtenances of managerial professionalism--societies, journals, university training, and specialized consultants--which scarcely existed in the US around 1900 were flourishing after WW I. But how, he asks, can ""narrowly trained managers"" who control society's basic economic resources be made more accountable for their actions--a question to be dealt with, perhaps, in another book. Meanwhile, this represents a worthwhile addition to the history of American capitalism from a perceptive but still dispassionate analyst.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press