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In the beginning: The light, scientific management, and Quaker Philadelphia

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-13, 15:09 authored by Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto

Purpose

This paper aims to offer a new history of management by tracing a religious dimension of scientific management. The thesis is that the good was foundational for bringing scientific management to success in Taylor’s native Quaker Philadelphia in the 1880s. The paper’s main contribution is to contrast the philosophical origins of Taylor’s ideas in scientific management to his native Quaker roots, and how Taylor, over time, into the 1910s, wrestled with this issue.


Design/methodology/approach

The paper is situated in historical interpretivism and subjectivism, leaning on contextual and narrative research on religious morality.


Findings

Quaker morality prevented managerial opportunism at Taylor’s Midvale Steel in the 1880s. Conversely, by the 1900s and 1910s, interest conflicts between workers and managers escalated when scientific management moved out of its traditional cultural contexts of Quaker Philadelphia and spread across the USA. The historical implication is, already for Taylor’s time, that scientific management never was the “one-best way” of management.


Research limitations/implications

Future research needs to deepen and broaden research on scientific management when tracing the significance of religion and culture in management thought.


Practical implications

The paper has implications for modern studies of business morality by uncovering the practical relevance of religious business ethics at the outset of management studies.


Social implications

The historic emergence of scientific management points to a theory of institutional evolution and economic growth, when religiously grounded governance of the firm deinstitutionalized, and institutional economic governance, with different but superior economic advantages, progressed by the 1900s.


Originality/value

The paper suggests an alternative version of the intellectual heritage of management studies by tracing the legacy of Taylor’s Quakerism and how religious and cultural ideas contributed to the formation of science in management.

History

Author affiliation

School of Business, University of Leicester

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Journal of Management History

Publisher

Emerald

issn

1751-1348

eissn

1751-1348

Copyright date

2023

Available date

2023-09-13

Language

English