Richard N. Langlois
2023 |
Business & Economics

"Over the course of most of the twentieth century, new technologies drove increasing diversification and specialization within the economy. Du Pont, for example, which invented nylon during the Depression, managed the complexity of widespread diversification by pioneering the decentralized multidivisional organizational structure, which was almost universally adopted in large American firms after World War II. Whereas in the nineteenth century there had been just a handful of employees at their Wilmington headquarters, by 1972 there were perhaps 10,000 managers inhabiting a vast complex at the same location. The conventional wisdom is that this huge trend withdrew large swaths of the American economy from the realm of the free market and entrusted them to a new class of professional managers who had at their disposal increasingly powerful scientific methods of accounting and forecasting. It was the superior ministrations of these managers, apparently, not relative prices, that equilibrated supply and demand and made sure that goods flowed smoothly from raw materials to the final consumer. Economic historian Richard Langlois argues that it wasn't so simple. The Corporation and the Twentieth Century is an accessible account of American business enterprise and administrative planning, looking at both the rise and demise of managerial coordination, and the history of antitrust policy in this context. Offering an authoritative counterpoint to Alfred Chandler's classic The Visible Hand, Langlois shows how historic events in the twentieth century came together to drastically change the organization of American businesses. Contrary to the beliefs of some business historians, he maintains that large managerial corporations arose not because of their superiority, but as a result of systematic technological changes and larger historic forces, and that post-war events such as the Vietnam War and the fall of Bretton Woods culminated in the resurgence of market coordination, in the institutional innovations of deregulation, and in the creation of decentralized new technology. Controversially, Langlois argues that those antitrust policies viewed as successes in the past are in fact failures, and holds that there was never a period during which antitrust kept size, concentration or monopoly at bay"--

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The Corporation and the Twentieth Century

The History of American Business Enterprise