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From Higher Aims to Hired Hands

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From Higher Aims to Hired Hands

The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession

Princeton UP,

15 mins. de lectura
10 horas ahorradas
10 ideas fundamentales
Audio y Texto

¿De qué se trata?

How social and economic forces shaped U.S. business education, the people it trains and the goals it sets.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This brilliant book is a sociological study of the modern business school, an ill-understood institution that has had a profound impact on the world's economy. Insider Rakesh Khurana, a professor at Harvard, begins in the late 19th century, when B-schools were born into a burgeoning America. Wharton was the first true B-school, established in 1881 with $100,000 from Joseph Wharton, a Pennsylvania Quaker. Programs at elite colleges, such as Dartmouth and Harvard, soon followed. Nasty teething pains, however, upset business schools’ infancy. Academics didn’t agree on curriculum or even purpose. Moreover, the nagging question about whether business (or “management”) was a real profession lingered. In adolescence, the gawky B-schools looked longingly at their unquestionably legitimate, older, wealthier siblings: graduate schools for law and medicine. This led to a business-school image makeover that didn’t quite work, according to the author, leaving today’s B-schools facing mid-life anomie as the economic value of B-school enrollment – and the resulting M.B.A. – drops. getAbstract recommends this book to anyone who wants to understand the past and future of this influential institution.


Awkward Beginnings: 1881-1941

Before the American Civil War (1861-65), America had nothing that could have been called “big business.” Most businesses were tiny operations, run by perhaps one or two people. These firms generally focused on a single product and limited themselves to a restricted geographic area. These entrepreneurial firms were fragile, inefficient and unpredictable. Even more than such entities today, small businesses were subject to the vicissitudes of a highly volatile economy. In boom times they prospered. When the inevitable busts followed, they died by the score.

After the Civil War, though, a new kind of business entity rose to prominence: the large corporation. Technological change, in part, caused this shift in the principal organizational form of business. The postbellum U.S. had new communication and transportation networks. Innovations in manufacturing technology also began to appear more widely. With increasing literacy, population growth and urbanization, these innovations allowed the unprecedented, large-scale coordination of workers, resources and information, as well as access to a newly unified national market. The corporate form, ...

About the Author

Rakesh Khurana is an associate professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School.

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