War and Peace: The Evolution of Modern Personnel Administration in U.S. Industry

American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 92, Issue 2, p. 350, 1986

University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-597

Posted: 10 Jan 2014  

James Baron

Yale School of Management

Frank Dobbin

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

P. Devereaux Jennings

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization

Date Written: September 1, 1985

Abstract

This paper charts the transformation of the employment relation-ship in different industries during the second quarter of this century and is based on a representative sampling of U.S. business organizations. The first section documents changes in the control systems that prevailed in U.S. industries between the Depression and the end of World War II.

The descriptive analyses generally corroborate portraits that have recently been provided by neo-Marxists of how and where technical and bureaucratic controls evolved. The second section sketches an explanation for the rapid diffusion of bureaucratic controls that apparently occurred between 1939 and 1946. It examines the role of three key constituencies in shaping modern systems of work force control: labor unions, personnel professionals, and the state. In particular, the analyses underscore the large role of government intervention in manpower activities during World War II in bureaucratizing employment. This effect of the state blurs the distinction between "efficiency" and "control" explanations of bureaucratic controls and internal labor markets, calling attention to institutional sources of change in organizations' employment structures. The concluding section highlights the implications of the findings for efforts to understand the employment relationship.

Suggested Citation

Baron, James and Dobbin, Frank and Jennings, P. Devereaux, War and Peace: The Evolution of Modern Personnel Administration in U.S. Industry (September 1, 1985). American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 92, Issue 2, p. 350, 1986; University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2013-597. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2278681

James Baron (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Frank Dobbin

Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

P. Devereaux Jennings

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

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