In the beginning: The light, scientific management, and Quaker Philadelphia
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.
The paper is situated in historical interpretivism and subjectivism, leaning on contextual and narrative research on religious morality.
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.
Future research needs to deepen and broaden research on scientific management when tracing the significance of religion and culture in management thought.
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.
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.
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.
Author affiliationSchool of Business, University of Leicester
- AM (Accepted Manuscript)