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From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession

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Is management a profession? Should it be? Can it be? This major work of social and intellectual history reveals how such questions have driven business education and shaped American management and society for more than a century. The book is also a call for reform. Rakesh Khurana shows that university-based business schools were founded to train a professional class of man Is management a profession? Should it be? Can it be? This major work of social and intellectual history reveals how such questions have driven business education and shaped American management and society for more than a century. The book is also a call for reform. Rakesh Khurana shows that university-based business schools were founded to train a professional class of managers in the mold of doctors and lawyers but have effectively retreated from that goal, leaving a gaping moral hole at the center of business education and perhaps in management itself. Khurana begins in the late nineteenth century, when members of an emerging managerial elite, seeking social status to match the wealth and power they had accrued, began working with major universities to establish graduate business education programs paralleling those for medicine and law. Constituting business as a profession, however, required codifying the knowledge relevant for practitioners and developing enforceable standards of conduct. Khurana, drawing on a rich set of archival material from business schools, foundations, and academic associations, traces how business educators confronted these challenges with varying strategies during the Progressive era and the Depression, the postwar boom years, and recent decades of freewheeling capitalism. Today, Khurana argues, business schools have largely capitulated in the battle for professionalism and have become merely purveyors of a product, the MBA, with students treated as consumers. Professional and moral ideals that once animated and inspired business schools have been conquered by a perspective that managers are merely agents of shareholders, beholden only to the cause of share profits. According to Khurana, we should not thus be surprised at the rise of corporate malfeasance. The time has come, he concludes, to rejuvenate intellectually and morally the training of our future business leaders.


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Is management a profession? Should it be? Can it be? This major work of social and intellectual history reveals how such questions have driven business education and shaped American management and society for more than a century. The book is also a call for reform. Rakesh Khurana shows that university-based business schools were founded to train a professional class of man Is management a profession? Should it be? Can it be? This major work of social and intellectual history reveals how such questions have driven business education and shaped American management and society for more than a century. The book is also a call for reform. Rakesh Khurana shows that university-based business schools were founded to train a professional class of managers in the mold of doctors and lawyers but have effectively retreated from that goal, leaving a gaping moral hole at the center of business education and perhaps in management itself. Khurana begins in the late nineteenth century, when members of an emerging managerial elite, seeking social status to match the wealth and power they had accrued, began working with major universities to establish graduate business education programs paralleling those for medicine and law. Constituting business as a profession, however, required codifying the knowledge relevant for practitioners and developing enforceable standards of conduct. Khurana, drawing on a rich set of archival material from business schools, foundations, and academic associations, traces how business educators confronted these challenges with varying strategies during the Progressive era and the Depression, the postwar boom years, and recent decades of freewheeling capitalism. Today, Khurana argues, business schools have largely capitulated in the battle for professionalism and have become merely purveyors of a product, the MBA, with students treated as consumers. Professional and moral ideals that once animated and inspired business schools have been conquered by a perspective that managers are merely agents of shareholders, beholden only to the cause of share profits. According to Khurana, we should not thus be surprised at the rise of corporate malfeasance. The time has come, he concludes, to rejuvenate intellectually and morally the training of our future business leaders.

30 review for From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is an analytic history of top tier business schools by an institutional sociologist at the Harvard Business School. I was prompted to read it when it was mentioned as a hot new book in the NYT, but after reading it, I found it was really good. To start with, Khurana knows how to discuss institutional change - which is very unusual in this type of sociological writings, which spends a lot of time explaining the ways things are and much less time explaining how they got that way or how they w This is an analytic history of top tier business schools by an institutional sociologist at the Harvard Business School. I was prompted to read it when it was mentioned as a hot new book in the NYT, but after reading it, I found it was really good. To start with, Khurana knows how to discuss institutional change - which is very unusual in this type of sociological writings, which spends a lot of time explaining the ways things are and much less time explaining how they got that way or how they would change. The punchline here is that business schools evolved with an implied mission to train managers in a normative vision of business and its relationship to society - sort of a "positive externalities" view of managerial education. Tben, in the 1980s and 1990s things go astray, and here the villains are largely economists, especially agency theorists and related Chicago-school approaches to teaching business in terms of maximizing profits and presuming radical selfishness - or extreme strategic contracting -- as the norm for how smart managers should behave. The implication is that business schools bear some of the responsibility for the excesses in business life, the financial crises, and most everything else lacking in business. The solution, of course, is to go back to teaching principles and trying to socialize managers into a broader social purpose. I sympathize with the idea, but this is a book that went about one chapter too long. Business schools have been dens of weasels, but they are not alone and paying students ate it all up on schedule. People need to think more about the goals of the profession, but what that will look like and how things will change are far from clear to me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Hopefully business schools will turn from teaching utterly discredited mathematical modeling and will start looking at the moral agenda Khurana proposes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rishona Campbell

    Well it has taken me quite some time to finish this book. I must admit, I found the reading level to be a bit intense; with the text reading more like an academic journal than the standard fare that you will find on the bookshelf at Barnes & Noble. But the subject matter was absolutely fascinating; as well as the illuminations and conclusions that the book contained. Professor Khurana raises many important key questions in his evaluation of MBA programs…most importantly “How did the MBA degree ge Well it has taken me quite some time to finish this book. I must admit, I found the reading level to be a bit intense; with the text reading more like an academic journal than the standard fare that you will find on the bookshelf at Barnes & Noble. But the subject matter was absolutely fascinating; as well as the illuminations and conclusions that the book contained. Professor Khurana raises many important key questions in his evaluation of MBA programs…most importantly “How did the MBA degree get off its course of being a truly professional degree?”. Yes, graduate business schools are still considered to be, overall, “professional programs”. But are they really? This book takes a very smart approach to examining this, by looking at the history of the MBA degree and societal and economic changes that have come about since it’s exception that have changed the goals and purpose of the degree. I was also impressed by the candor in which this book was written. Being a Harvard professor (and Harvard has one of the “top” MBA programs in the US…the world even), he had incentive to separate out the “elite” MBA programs, and lay the bulk of the criticism on the lessor programs. However he did not take this route. In fact, he hinted that mainly because the top MBA programs changed their focus; from educating management professionals, to churning out ambitious, self-serving profiteers (who are willing to pay top dollar not for superior graduate business education, but for ties into a prestigious alumni network) is one of the major reasons that the MBA degree has been cheapened in its scope and purpose today. I found this book to be invaluable reading; not only as a criticism of the modern MBA degree (after all, I am working on such a degree myself!), but as an eye-opener into the present state of affairs. I think that anyone, rather it be a current or future MBA student, alumni, or professor would (or should) enjoy this book. If they take their studies seriously; and would like more clarification on where exactly the MBA degree “went wrong”….I couldn’t suggest a better book!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    Always interesting to read a history of something you're experiencing. Business has had a diverse cultural justification over time and its schools respond to, and shape, that narrative. Some of the details of the commissions and programs were a bit dry, but easy enough to power through those parts for my purposes. Always interesting to read a history of something you're experiencing. Business has had a diverse cultural justification over time and its schools respond to, and shape, that narrative. Some of the details of the commissions and programs were a bit dry, but easy enough to power through those parts for my purposes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    voted three stars instead of one star because i want to look like i cared about teh subject matter when in fact it was the most boring freakng thing

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    650.07117 K459 2010

  7. 5 out of 5

    Philip

  8. 5 out of 5

    Avtandil Gogoli

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alex Burns

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn Lyons

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam Gurri

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nattha

  13. 4 out of 5

    ftrStrategy

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Mcdonough

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah T

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sohana Punithakumar

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Andrés

  18. 5 out of 5

    Oscar Stewart

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maurice Savard

  20. 4 out of 5

    F Fed

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    Read for research paper in Foundations class.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mahesh Subramony

  23. 5 out of 5

    Der Chao

  24. 4 out of 5

    Henning Tobiasson

  25. 5 out of 5

    John

  26. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Piero

  27. 5 out of 5

    Madison Carter

  28. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Braswell

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jordi

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