False Prophets: The Gurus Who Created Modern Management and Why Their Ideas Are Bad for Business Today / Edition 1

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According to Jim Hoopes, the fundamental principles on which business is based-authority, power, control-are increasingly at odds with principles of life in a democratic society-freedom, equality, individualism. False Prophets critically examines the pioneering theories of the early management thinkers, such as Taylor, Follett, Mayo, and Deming, which intended to democratize corporate life yet have proved antithetical to the successful practice of business. Hoopes challenges popular management movements that followed in the wake of these thinkers and accuses today's business theorists of perpetuating bad management in the name of democratic values. He urges executives and managers to recognize the realities of corporate life and learn to apply the principles of power. He also unveils a new management agenda that will be of paramount significance to modern organizations.A rich and lively read, False Prophets provides a refreshingly new and original overview of the history of management in the larger context of the American culture, brilliantly illustrating its evolution-from the ivory tower to the shop floor.
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Editorial Reviews

Harvard Business Review
Provocative and incisive.
Writing in an engaging style, the author uses rare historical evidence to challenge readers to look at management ideas skeptically...recommended.
The Washington Post
Hoopes's novel assertion is not that the gurus made life worse for workers -- anyone in the thrall of simpleton platitude-spouting bosses realizes that's axiomatic. Instead, he holds that the attempt to democratize the workplace actually hurts workers and work. Corporations are not democracies, he writes, and one gives up certain rights when flashing the ID badge at the company door. — Frank Ahrens
Publishers Weekly
Babson College history professor Hoopes traces American business theory's antidemocratic strain by starting with "management manuals" for slave owners and overseers, seeing plantations as among the nation's earliest forerunners of the modern corporation. The inference that modern workers are just as commodified as slaves isn't accidental; one of Hoopes's theses is that management gurus, by nature idealistic and utopian, are uncomfortable addressing the fundamental discrepancy in American culture between corporate power and political ideals. In order to avoid confronting that contradiction, they posit "bottom-up" organizational models-in one extreme case, suggesting corporate authority doesn't exist, but is conferred upon managers by employees who reject the responsibility of decision making. By examining the lives and writings of eight 20th-century business writers, Hoopes aims to demonstrate how their management theories have steered American industry wrongly. By pretending corporate power doesn't operate from a "top-down" model, management theory fails to address the moral questions that come with authority, he says. And it's that blind spot, he claims, that leads to the self-deception and self-righteousness that fuel corporate scandals. The book's biographical elements are strong, offering brief but well-rounded portraits depicting not only the successes but also the shortcomings and failures of figures like Frederick W. Taylor, whose ruthless quest for efficiency put him in conflict with the laborers he sought to regiment. He also highlights theories that still have some practical value, such as Peter Drucker's proposal to promote specific objectives rather than abstract missions. Knowing the weaknesses of popular theories is useful in its own right, but managers looking for quick fixes to ethical dilemmas won't find them here. Agent, Barbara Rifkind. (June 3) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Hoopes (distinguished professor of history, Babson Coll.; Community Denied) here profiles nine business management leaders whom he labels gurus. He begins with a brief biography of each, then describes and analyzes the management philosophy he or she embraces. Hoopes's thesis is that the philosophies of Frederick W. Taylor, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, H.L. Gantt, Mary Parker Follett, Elton Mayo, Chester Bernard, W. Edwards Deming, and Peter Drucker have been detrimental to business today. He argues that instead of subscribing to philosophies that promise to give more freedom to employees, business managers should look for new management models that recognize some of the antidemocratic conditions necessary in a successful corporation. Unfortunately, Hoopes doesn't really present a convincing argument that the philosophies of these business "gurus" are hurting business today. This thesis is broached in the final chapter but is not effectively tied to the preceding chapters, which are basically well-written biographies of the various individuals. Overuse of the term guru further confuses the issue; these are pundits who are not alone in shaping business as it is today. Recommended for large business collections and academic libraries.-Joyce M. Cox, Nevada State Lib. & Archives, Carson City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738207988
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/15/2003
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,314,468
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

James Hoopes is Distinguished Professor of History at Babson College. An expert on American culture and intellectual history, he is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEH Fellowship, and a senior Fulbright lectureship in England. He also received a grant from Alfred A. Sloan Foundation to support the writing of this book. The author of several books, he lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Pt. 1 Scientific Management: How Top-Down Power Increased American Productivity 1
1 Handling People in Early America 5
2 The Demon: Frederick W. Taylor 33
3 The Engineers: The Gilbreths and Gantt 65
Pt. 2 Human Relations: Management as Moral Leadership of Bottom-Up Power 97
4 The Optimist: Mary Parker Follett 101
5 The Therapist: Elton Mayo 129
6 The Leader: Chester Barnard 161
Pt. 3 Social Philosophy: Management as Everybody's Business 193
7 The Statistician: W. Edwards Deming 197
8 The Moralist: Peter Drucker 231
Conclusion 263
Notes 283
Index 311
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2004


    Despite its title, this book doesn¿t say much, or much of substance, about business today. Instead, it concentrates on lively professional and personal profiles of eight twentieth century management theorists of varying impact. Hammer and Champy, who launched the 1990s re-engineering movement, are mentioned only in the conclusion, and the gurus behind managing for shareholder value aren¿t mentioned. A little less detail about peccadilloes of the long dead and a little more about crucial management ideas that have shaped contemporary business might have made the book more relevant. Interestingly, it indicates that slave owners anticipated some of the progressive ideas in modern management but the author leaves it to the readers to make the connection: voila, contemporary workers believe the cant of empowerment about as much as the slaves believed the plantation master¿s pieties. We recommend this book for its anecdotal, gossipy entertainment value. It will make you cautious about management consultants ¿ but if you aren¿t already, you can¿t have spent much time in business.

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