Drifting to the Margins: The Effect of “Scientization” on Management History

Closing Doors: Reduced Publication Opportunities in Mainstream Management Journals

As already mentioned in Chapter 4 (this volume; see especially Table 4.1) and as the preceding review shows, one strong indicator for the increasing marginalization of the history of management and management thought during the 1970s and 1980s can be found in the types of journals, where studies on these topics could be and were published, as well as the actual number of articles appearing in these journals. Thus, while such articles could and did get published in the Academy of Management Journal (AMJ) until the mid-1970s, the doors of the journal became practically shut, when, in 1976, as a response to expanding scientism in management research, AoM decided to reserve AMJ for empirical— meaning, at the time quantitative—studies and to launch its companion, the Academy of Management Review (AMR). The editorial announcing this decision (Miner 1974) stated that the new journal would be publishing “conceptual papers”, which included “theoretical pieces, literature reviews, historical analyses, essays and commentary” (p. 405; emphasis added)—implying a treatment of history as “conceptual”. And AMR did indeed serve as a home for historical writing until the mid-1980s. More receptive was the Journal of Management, launched in 1975 by the Southern Management Association in the US, a regional division of AoM. However, even there, articles on the history of management or management thought were becoming sparse after the late 1980s

(van Fleer 2006)—with the focus shifting toward historical reviews of the academic literature (see Table 4.1 in Chapter 4, this volume).

A similar pattern can be gauged from the papers presented at AoM conferences. During the 1970s and 1980s, on average only about three papers on the history of management and management thought got published in full in the conference proceedings, constituting slightly above three percent of all the full papers that were included (Academy of Management Proceedings, 14 November 2017). But during the last few years of the 1980s history papers all but disappeared. In fact, concerns emerged as to whether the continuously small size of the Management History Division would threaten its survival, given the AoM’s criteria during the 1980s that required a division to have at least four percent of the total membership in order to be viable. The threat was overcome when in 1990 the AoM president assured that the Management History Division would be exempt from this criterion—purportedly because of the “status” it had gained as “Division 1” when divisions were established in the early 1970s (Greenwood 2015: 182-183). That research and writing on these topics remained marginal was also apparent from Wren (1987) issuing yet another call for a greater interest in teaching and researching management history. Most indicative perhaps was the limited actual research that he could refer to, which consisted of a few rather dated doctoral dissertations and the articles that were reviewed earlier in this chapter.

The response to the increasing difficulties of publishing history articles in major management journals and an attempt to rekindle interest in research on the history of management and management thought was the creation of a dedicated journal in the mid-1990s. According to Regina Greenwood (2015), discussions to set up such a publication had started in rhe late 1980s among members of the Management History Division ar the AoM. It took a while for these efforts to come to fruition. Eventually MCB University Press, renamed Emerald Publishing in 2001, accepted to launch what was to be called the Journal of Management History (JMH), with its first issue appearing in 1995 (Greenwood 2015). The new journal was greeted with enthusiasm and optimism, as it purportedly promised to provide a new avenue for championing the cause of management history (see, e.g. Carson and Carson 1998). Yet worries did not cease. Concerns continued to be voiced about the unwelcome reception by leading US journals (e.g. van Fleet 2008) and, perhaps even more strongly, the limited space that was allowed for teaching management history in US business schools (Bedeian 2004; Van Fleet and Wren 2005; Smith 2007).

Initially, it appeared that the initiative would be rather short-lived, as JMH ceased publication in 2000, becoming “incorporated” into Management Decision, another journal of the same publisher. However, JMH did regain a separate identity in 2006, again under the auspices of the Emerald Group and has since continued publication, officially recognized as being affiliated with the AoM’s Management History Division (Jain and Sullivan 2015). A study on the initial five years of the journal (1995-1999) concluded that it provided a base for discussions on rhe “history of management concepts and practices” so that the development of particular research areas in management could be appreciated and used for further advancement of the field (Hardy, Gibson and Buckley 2015: 417). The “new” JMH from 2006 was envisioned as standing on the same footing, perpetuating the approaches and traditions that had developed mainly within the academic context in the US after World War II (see earlier). In his inaugural editorial of the resurrected journal, Lamond (2006: 6), for example, saw the task of JMH and its authors as responding to the “need to examine more closely the historical development of management concepts and practices, with a view to how they inform the present and ‘shape what we are and what we do’ ”.

Like in the short-lived first period of publication, some of the articles that appeared in JMH after 2006 were geared toward tracing the historical development of management concepts or topics, especially more topical ones such as quality management, entrepreneurship, social responsibility and corporate governance. Yet the predominant focus continued to be on historical figures, particularly Taylor, Fayol, Follett and Barnard, and lately, similar to patterns identified later for edited collections, also on the more recent US contributors and “gurus” (e.g. Peter Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, Alfred D. Chandler Jr., Herbert Simon and Douglas McGregor). The reviews on JMH (Crocitto 2015; Hardy et al. 2015; Jain and Sullivan 2015) indicate that in the first five years of the journal around 50 percent and then up to 2009 about 40 percent of the articles were about individuals. Thus, what ultimately surprises most is that management historians, despite the obvious marginalization, and even existential threat they faced within the broader community of management academics in rhe US, did not revisit and revise their research priorities. Instead, they continued along the well-trodden “orthodox” lines of inquiry.

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