Provocative and incisive.
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
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.
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.