War and Peace: The Evolution of Modern Personnel Administration in U.S. Industry
American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 92, Issue 2, p. 350, 1986
Posted: 10 Jan 2014
Date Written: September 1, 1985
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.
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