Company Men: White-Collar Life and Corporate Cultures in Los Angeles, 1892-1941

Company Men: White-Collar Life and Corporate Cultures in Los Angeles, 1892-1941

by Clark Davis


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America's white-collar workers form the core of the nation's corporate economy and its expansive middle class. But just a century ago, white-collar jobs were new and their future anything but certain. In Company Men Clark Davis places the corporate office at the heart of American social and cultural history, examining how the nation's first generation of white-collar men created new understandings of masculinity, race, community, and success—all of which would dominate American experience for decades to come.

Company Men is set in Los Angeles, the nation's "corporate frontier" of the early twentieth century. Davis shows how this California city—often considered on the fringe of American society for the very reason that it was new and growing so rapidly—displayed in sharp contours how America's corporate culture developed. The young men who left their rural homes for southern California a century ago not only helped build one of the world's great business centers, but also redefined middle-class values and morals. Of interest to students of business history, gender studies, and twentieth-century culture, this work focuses on the "company man" as a pivotal actor in the saga of modern American history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801862755
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 10/12/2001
Series: Studies in Industry and Society , #19
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.68(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Clark Davis was an associate professor of history at California State University at Fullerton.

Table of Contents





The Rise of Corporate Los Angeles

Defining Corporate Employment

Company Men

Creating an Esprit De Corps

Profit and Security

White-Collar Manhood

The Corporation as Community

The White-Collar Depression



Essay on Sources


What People are Saying About This

William Deverell

Clark Davis has painstakingly peeled away much of the social veneer that obscures 'company men' from historical analysis.

William Deverell, California Institute of Technology

Douglas Flamming

The 'company man' is so ensconced in American culture that we take him for granted. Maybe that is why historians have ignored him. In this eye-opening work, Clark Davis reminds us that company men emerged out of specific, often fascinating, historical circumstances and that Los Angeles had a lot to do with it. This book has much to tell us about who we are -- as a people and a nation.

Douglas Flamming, Georgia Institute of Technology

Angel Kwolek-Folland

Davis's detailed probing into divergent firms reveals surprising similarities in managerial style, sources of conflict (particularly between the goals of companies and employees), and the development of such things as profit-sharing and fringe benefits to reduce the problem of turnover and strengthen corporate loyalty. Davis argues that corporate strategies evolved in response to employee needs, a refreshing shift of perspective that gives agency to 'agents' and demonstrates the contingent nature of corporate power. Corporate executives' attempts to enfold the desires and needs of employees into their companies' economic and social goals were not always successful; employees, including managers, took what they wanted and disregarded the rest. Rather than omnipotent corporations manipulating vestigial workers, Davis describes the slippery and chaotic accommodations and refusals each side made.

Angel Kwolek-Folland, University of Kansas

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