Sub-theme 55: The Expansion of Management: Agents, Processes and Consequences [merged with sub-theme 44]


Call for Papers

The past 150 years have seen a considerable expansion of management. While few were mentioning management or called themselves ‘managers’ in the late 19th century, the notion and the related role have today penetrated into organizations, societies, even everyday life all over the world. There is a widespread belief that management is constituted by general principles that can be applied anywhere, irrespective of the economic context, technology, culture and the institutional environment.
Much of the earlier research has looked at this expansion either as a result of the development of new management ideas, tools or fashions (e.g. Wren & Bedeian, 2009; Abrahamson, 1996) or as the spread of corporate forms/models of organization both in terms of geography and in terms of domains, i.e. form industry to services to public administration (e.g. Chandler, 1990; Hood, 1995). More recently attention has been paid to a set of actors referred to as the ‘management-fashion-setting community’ (Abrahamson, 1996), ‘management knowledge industry’ (Micklethwait & Wooldridge, 1996) or ‘carriers of management knowledge’ (Sahlin-Andersson & Engwall, 2002), which include first and foremost, business schools, consultancies and business media.
Historically, their expansion did happen concurrently with the expansion of management. Thus, neither of the three had much significance or legitimacy in the late 19th century, while today they are seen as key actors behind the development and diffusion of management ideas and practices (for an overview, see Engwall et al., 2016). Business schools or faculties/departments of business studies have become dominant institutions in most national systems of higher education, attracting considerable parts of the student population. Likewise consultancies have developed from mainly technical rationalizers into powerful advisors to corporations, large and small, public administrations and governments, including NGOs and even the Vatican. Marginal in the 19th century, business news and management publications are today provided by global conglomerates, which not only report on and evaluate managerial performance, but also rank business schools and measure academic ‘impact’.
What is less clear is (a) how the expansion and increased authority of these three sets of actors has contributed to the expansion of management and (b), equally if not more importantly, whether their influence has been a positive one. Put differently, have business schools, consultancies and business media contributed not only to spreading management but also made sure that it is “good” management, as their representatives would invariably claim. Or have they, on the contrary, been responsible for expanding management ideas too far and too indiscriminately – maybe even contributing to recent crises as some have argued (e.g. Pfeffer & Fong, 2002; Kipping & Westerhuis, 2014).
The sub-theme aims to shed some light on these questions by inviting both conceptual and empirical papers that look at the expansion of management with a focus on these sets of actors. We, particularly but not only, welcome submissions that examine:

  • The development of business schools (and business faculties/departments), management consultancies, and business media over the past 150 years: While we have some understanding of the most visible of these sets of actors in the Western world, much still needs to be known about how they expanded and legitimized themselves elsewhere, and about those that have been less visible, even in the West.
  • The contribution of these actors to the expansion of management in terms of (a) the various mechanisms involved, including not only their educating, consulting and publishing activities but also the networks they have been building for instance, and (b) the processes through which their ideas came to be translated, adapted and applied in different organizational, institutional and societal contexts – or not.
  • The consequences of their own expansion, of their role in the expansion of management, and of the expansion of management itself with respect to the global transformation of the above mentioned contexts. Ideally, there should be some evaluation of whether the related outcomes have been positive or negative ones – possibly with suggestions of how to best remedy possible aberrations or excesses.



  • Abrahamson, E. (1996): “Management fashion.” Academy of Management Review, 21 (1), 254–285.
  • Chandler, Jr., A.D. (1990): Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
  • Engwall, L., Kipping, M., & Üsdiken, B. (2016): Defining Management: Business Schools, Consultants, Media. New York: Routledge.
  • Hood, C. (1995): “The “New Public Management” in the 1980s: variations on a theme.” Accounting, Organizations and Society, 20 (2), 93–109.
  • Kipping, M., & Westerhuis, G. (2014): “The managerialization of banking: from blueprint to reality.” Management & Organizational History, 9 (4), 374–393.
  • Micklethwait, J., & Wooldridge, A. (1996): The Witch Doctors: What the Management Gurus Are Saying, Why It Matters and How To Make Sense of It. London: Heinemann.
  • Pfeffer, J., & Fong, C.T. (2002): “The end of business schools? Less success than meets the eye.” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 1 (1), 78–95.
  • Sahlin-Andersson, K., & Engwall, L. (eds.) (2002): The Expansion of Management Knowledge: Carriers, Flows and Sources. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Wren, D.A., & Bedeian, A.G. (2009): The Evolution of Management Thought. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.