Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism

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9780691089546: Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism

American society today is shaped not nearly as much by vast open spaces as it is by vast, bureaucratic organizations. Over half the working population toils away at enterprises with 500 or more employees - up from 0 percent in 1800. Is this institutional immensity the logical outcome of technological forces in an all-efficient market, as some have argued? In this book, the first organizational history of nineteenth-century America, Yale sociologist Charles Perrow says no. He shows that there was nothing inevitable about the surge in corporate size and power by century's end. Critics railed against the nationalizing of the economy, against corporations' monopoly powers, political subversion, environmental destruction, and "wage slavery." How did a nation committed to individual freedom, family firms, public goods, and decentralized power become transformed in one century? Bountiful resources, a mass market, and the industrial revolution gave entrepreneurs broad scope. In Europe, the state and the church kept private organizations small and required consideration of the public good. In America, the courts and business-steeped legislators removed regulatory constraints over the century, centralizing industry and privatizing the railroads. Despite resistance, the corporate form became the model for the next century. Bureaucratic structure spread to government and the nonprofits. Writing in the tradition of Max Weber, Perrow concludes that the driving force of our history is not technology, politics, or culture, but large, bureaucratic organizations. Perrow, the author of award-winning books on organizations, employs his witty, trenchant, and graceful style here to maximum effect. Colorful vignettes abound; today's headlines echo past battles for unchecked organizational freedom; socially responsible alternatives that were tried are explored along with the historical contingencies that sent us down one road rather than another. No other book takes the role of organizations in America's development as seriously. The resultant insights presage a new historical genre.

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Recensione:

Winner of the 2003 Max Weber Award

" Organizing America is a provocative and passionate account of the nineteenth century origins of modern American corporate governance and its far-reaching effects. It is highly appropriate for our times." --Michael H. Best, The Journal of Economic History

"An ambitious and important book that is sure to provoke controversy. . . . Organizing America takes on fundamental issues in a way that is provocative, compelling, and all too rare . . . and provides a wealth of insights. . . . [T]his is an important book that will stimulate research and debate for decades to come." --Robert Freeland, Administrative Science Quarterly

"Perrow's book . . . is clearly and cogently expressed, and his refutations of alternative theories are often strong and convincing. This is a useful and stimulating book. . . . The passionate intensity of the author and the lack of obfuscation in his arguments are refreshing." --Gerald Zahavi, American Historical Review

Contenuti:

Acknowledgments ix
CHAPTER 1: Introduction 1
Some Central Concepts 3
Density and concentration 3
Size and small-firm networks 4
Organizations or capitalism 6
Noneconomic organizations 7
Power 8
Culture and other shapers of society 9
Organizations as the independent variable 10
What Do Organizations Do? 12
What Kind of Organizations? 16
Alternative Theories 17
Conclusion 19
CHAPTER 2: Preparing the Ground 22
Communities, Markets, Hierarchies, and Networks 22
Community 23
The market direction 25
Toward hierarchy and networks 28
The Legal Revolution that Launched Organizations 31
Fear of corporations 33
What organizations need to be able to do 35
Making capitalism corporate 36
Capitalism to Corporate Capitalism 40
Lawyers: "The Shock Troops of Capitalism" 43
CHAPTER 3: Toward Hierarchy: The Mills of Manayunk 48
Getting the Factory Going: The Role of Labor Control 48
The first mill-a workhouse 50
To mechanize or not? 51
Social Consequences 53
Labor Policies and Strikes 58
Organizations and Religion 60
From Working Classes to a Working Class 61
The politics of class 62
Conclusion 63
CHAPTER 4: Toward Hierarchy and Networks 65
Lowell and the Boston Associates 65
Wage dependence and labor control 65
Lowell I: The benign phase 67
Profits and market control 69
Lowell II: The exploitive phase 70
Explaining the First Modern Business 75
Structural constraints 77
The Slater Model 79
Toward Networks with the Philadelphia Model 81
When capital counts 82
Philadelphia's large mills 84
Size and technology 86
Networks of Firms 88
Labor conflict 90
Externalities 90
The Decline of Textile Firms 92
Summary 94
CHAPTER 5: Railroads, the Second Big Business 96
Railroads in France, Britain, and the United States: The Organizational Logic 102
France 104
Britain 108
The importance of the railroads 111
Why Were the Railroads Unregulated and Privatized? 113
The efficiency argument 115
Historical institutionalism 117
Historical institutionalism assessed 122
The neoinstitutionalist account 123
The organization interest account 127
The details 129
Self-interested opposition to the railroads 139
Corruption Observed but Not Interpreted 141
Evidence from the public record, and the outcry 144
Scholars explain corruption 151
Summary and Conclusions 157
CHAPTER 6: The Organizational Imprinting 160
Making the Railroads Work 160
Divisionalization 161
Finance takes charge 162
Inevitable, or a chance path? 165
Contracting out 166
Leadership Style and Worker Welfare 173
Work in general 175
Nationalization and Centralization: The Final Spike 179
Organizational versus political interpretations 180
Where did the money come from? 183
Regionalization versus Nationalization 186
The debate over the ethos 187
A political or an organizational interpretation of the struggle? 192
Was Regionalism Viable? 194
Concentrating Capital and Power 196
The corporate form triumphs 197
Explaining the arrival of the corporate form 201
An organizational agency account 204
Summary and Conclusions 212
CHAPTER 7: Summary and Conclusions 217
Appendix Alternative Theories Where Organizations Are the Dependent Variable 229
Notes 237
Bibliography 243
Index 251

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