In a pioneering work, Jeffrey Fear overturns the dominant understanding of German management as “backward” relative to the U.S. and uncovers an autonomous and sophisticated German managerial tradition. Beginning with founder August Thyssen—the Andrew Carnegie of Germany—Fear traces the evolution of management inside the Thyssen-Konzern and the Vereinigte Stahlwerke (United Steel Works) between 1871 and 1934.
Fear focuses on the organization and internal dynamics of the company. He demonstrates that initiatives often flowed from middle managers, rather than from the top down. Shattering stereotypes of the overly bureaucratic and rigid German firm, Fear portrays a decentralized and flexible system that underscores the dynamic and entrepreneurial nature of German business. He fundamentally revises the scholarship on Alexander Gerschenkron and Germany’s Sonderweg, and critiques Max Weber’s concept of the corporation and capital accounting. He develops a loosely coupled relationship among enterprise strategy, organization, the structure of responsibility, and its accounting system, which links information, knowledge, and power inside the firm. This method of organizing control is central to understanding corporate governance.
Original and provocative, this work will generate much debate among historians, organizational theorists, and management and accounting scholars.
Jeffrey Fear shatters some models of German business history in this massive and enlightening study.
This volume is a seminal work in the history of the Thyssen corporation as well as in German business history more generally… Organizing Control is an ambitious study of one of the most influential companies in German history. This work excels, above all, in its persuasive challenge of historiographical approaches that have dominated business history, and as such, it warrants serious attention by scholars of business history.
Jeffrey Fear’s study of the Thyssen Konzern and the Vereinigte Stahlwerke is a major revisionist work of current ideas about German corporate development and contains a number of conceptual breakthroughs of great significance. He is quite fearless in his willingness to take on the big guns, and while he has obviously benefited greatly from Schumpeter, Chandler, and Kocka, he challenges all of them, presenting criticisms and methodological innovations that future historians cannot bypass. Fear makes a special contribution in questioning the ‘Americanization’ model for German business development over the course of the twentieth century, casting doubt on the notion that the Germans were peculiarly ‘unmodern’ until they adopted what were allegedly American methods. His analysis of the employment of ‘American’ techniques at the Vereinigte Stahlwerke is utterly devastating. Before Fear is finished, the ‘Americanization’ model seems inadequate. Organizing Control is a powerful encouragement to rethink old stereotypes and to study modern management and managerial decision making in more sophisticated ways. It is a valuable contribution both to business history and modern German history.
Fear offers an extensive business history of the Thyssen network of firms, with fascinating insights into technical developments in steel making and engineering, the way accountancy practices structure and effectively generate the firm, the extent of borrowing from American practice, and a great deal of interesting cross-national comparison. His chapters on cartels and bank influence are real models, range well beyond the Thyssen case, and will be widely used and cited. I am completely convinced by the very effective demolition of the ‘Americanization’ thesis, and by the multitude of German innovations in management practices and the rationalization of production technology. Organizing Control has the capacity to be a modern equivalent of the influential vision propagated in Jürgen Kocka’s study of Siemens. This important and ambitious business history will change the way analysts look at the development of German business.
- 976 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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