The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation

The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation : Organizational Change at General Motors, 1924-1970

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Winner of the 2005 Business History Review Newcomen Award for best book in business history, The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation provides a fascinating historical overview of decision-making and political struggle within one of America's largest and most important corporations. Drawing on primary historical material, Robert Freeland examines the changes in General Motors' organization between the years 1924 and 1970. He takes issue with the well-known argument of business historian Alfred Chandler and economist Oliver Wiliamson, who contend that GM's multidivisional corporate structure emerged and survived because it was more efficient than alternative forms of organization. This book illustrates that for most of its history, GM intentionally violated the fundamental axioms of efficient organization put forth by these analysts. It did so in order to create cooperation and managerial consent to corporate policies. Freeland uses the GM case to re-examine existing theories of corporate governance, arguing that the decentralized organizational structure advocated by efficiency theorists may actually undermine cooperation, and thus foster organizational more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139244205
  • 9781139244206

About Robert F. Freeland

Robert F. Freeland is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. He has published in the American Journal of Sociology and Business History Review, and is the recipient of the 1998 Social Science History Association's President's Book Prize for this more

Table of contents

1. The modern corporation and the problem of order; 2. Creating corporate order: conflicting versions of decentralization at GM, 1921-33; 3. Administrative centralization of the M-Form, 1934-41; 4. Participative decentralization redefined: mobilizing for war production, 1941-5; 5. The split between finance and operations: postwar problems and organization structure, 1945-8; 6. Consent as an organization weapon: coalition politics and the destruction of cooperation, 1948-58; 7. Consent destroyed: the decline and fall of General Motors, 1958-80; 8. more

Review quote

'Undoubtedly, this is one of the most important books on organizations published over the last decade, one that will generate much-needed debate about a topic and a theory that should have been scrutinized a long time ago.' Mauro F. Guillen, American Journal of Sociology 'Elegantly framed within the overlapping literatures of the rise of the diversified corporate form (Alfred Chandler), transaction-cost economics (Oliver Williamson), and organizational sociology. The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation deftly critiques efficiency-based theories of the firm and focuses historical attention on the enduring tension between order and efficiency at the center of any business enterprise.' David Kirsh, Enterprise and Society 'A bold work of prodigious scholarship that deftly undermines orthodox accounts of the rise and the development of the largest U.S. corporation.' Walter W. Powell, Stanford Universityshow more