The purpose of this article is to examine the relationship between the historical development of accounting, information, and communication systems and business organizations since the late eighteenth century. Its findings are based largely on research conducted by accounting and business historians during the last quarter of the century, a period in which accounting history, once a niche area of research heavily focused on the development of double-entry bookkeeping, has been brought more firmly into the business-history fold. This reflects the work of those historians who have focused their attention on the development of cost/management accounting practices within firms, and the “new” accounting historians who have examined the wider relationship between accounting and the organizations and society within which it is embedded.
Born in England in 1861, Alfred North Whitehead turned to philosophy after a brilliant career in mathematics, where he developed a philosophical scheme based on experience as the ultimate unit of analysis, rejecting what he called the bifurcation between mind and nature that had dominated philosophical thought. He also invoked the idea of concrete experience to connect to American pragmatism, and especially to William James’s work. This chapter first provides an overview of Whitehead’s life and times before turning to his philosophical views. It examines Whitehead’s notion of atomism and his influence on organization studies. Finally, it discusses three aspects of events that may help lay foundations for an event-based organization theory inspired by Whitehead’s philosophy: events as spatio-temporal durations, the forming of events through mirroring, and the open structures of events.
Joseph R. Blasi and Douglas L. Kruse
Worker ownership plays a significant role in the US economy today. This worker ownership takes on different forms. A large proportion of the US population (close to a fifth) owns stock in the company where they work. Meaningful worker holdings are ubiquitous in high-technology companies such as Google in the Internet area, Microsoft in the software area, Gilead Sciences in biotechnology, and Qualcomm in mobile technology. The most intensive sectors of worker ownership in the US are about 10,000 companies with about 15 million workers with Employee Stock Ownership Plans, where about 4,000 of the firms are majority or 100 per cent worker-owned, and a compact but vibrant and growing sector of about 300 worker co-operatives with about 6,000 members. Much of this chapter is based on our book, The Citizen’s Share, with economist Richard B. Freeman (Blasi, Freeman, and Kruse, 2015: 57–122).
Carien de Jonge and Gail Whiteman
Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher known for his work on semantics and philosophy of science, was committed to Gandhian, non-violent enquiry. As an ecophilosopher and the father of the deep ecology movement, he developed a philosophical system termed ecosophy. According to Naess, the path to understanding lies in an interconnected set of active processes, which include cognitive and emotive components and involve a widening and maturing of the self, which he termed self-realization!. This chapter examines the building blocks of Naess’ ecosophy and its relevance to process philosophy in organization studies. It also discusses four of his key philosophical insights: self-realization, relationalism, gestalt ontology/perception, and the genesis of the Place-person. The chapter concludes by considering how Naess’ work contributes unique insights to a process theory of organizing.
Marta B. Calás and Linda Smircich
This article makes a long detour by taking multidisciplinary understandings of ‘development’ and ‘technology’ via Ethiopia and Somalia. It discusses several news items that illustrate the current state of organization studies and its prospects. Organization studies might tell postmodernist tales about these news items. For instance, a postmodern story might engage the contemporary discourse about time/space compression to observe that time and space seem to be compressed only on the side of the powerful — for ‘the other’ of this tale appears to inhabit an ever-moving space in which time travels backward. Foucauldian versions might genealogize the discourses and practices of ‘success’ and ‘development’. Or, perhaps, the discourses of globalization could be deconstructed by reading the binaries embedded in ‘Martian microbes waiting to bloom and blow up in our bellies’ through the blooming bellies of African populations whose life expectancy is going backward.
This article examines the contributions of business historians to the analysis of comparative financial systems. It begins with the responses of historical research to questions raised by economists. The article then goes on to highlight new questions raised by the work of business historians themselves. It gives a short presentation of the debates among economists. Furthermore, the article gives a detailed account of five topics in an historical perspective: the role of firms' self-financing, the role of external finance and the structure of its components, the systemic character of cross-national variations, the historical origins of national financial systems, and the consequences of these differences for economic performances. Finally, the article presents a short concluding section that considers the problem of convergence.
Daniel Hjorth and Robin Holt
Baruch Spinoza is rarely read in organization studies and figures in discussions on process philosophy or process thinking only occasionally. However, he becomes a most apposite thinker of organization and process in the context of ethics. Spinoza’s philosophy emphasizes both agency and structure as the active or passive modulation of nature, rather than individual agents in their status as subjects, or on structures as determining constraints. This chapter examines Spinoza’s philosophy based on three basic concepts: substance, mode, and attribute. It also discusses his ideas about God, Nature, ethics of coping, conatus, affect and affective capacity, actorship, and organization.
Big business has been at the heart of business history from its very beginnings, whether as a mere literary genre; or, more seriously in the last half century, as an academic discipline. The Chandlerian paradigm has considerably reinforced this trend, with other approaches to the subject being largely marginalized. Interest in big business has not waned with the advent of the post-Chandler era and is unlikely to do so, given its crucial role in economic development; but this role has been put in proper perspective and alternative forms of business organization reappraised as part of modern societies rather than mere archaisms. This article concentrates on defining the notion of big business; on comparing the various stages and the specific context of its development, especially in the United States, the major economies of Western Europe, and Japan; and on briefly discussing the socio-political dimension of the phenomenon.