HomeBeyond the Managerial Utopia of American Schools of Business Administration

Beyond the Managerial Utopia of American Schools of Business Administration

Au-delà de l’utopie managériale des Business Schools américaines

Early Emergence of European Management Education in the 18th and 19th centuries

L’émergence de l’enseignement de la gestion en Europe aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles

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Published on Thursday, December 03, 2015 by Céline Guilleux


The track invites new thinking and empirical findings on the 18th and 19th century European management education that both supplement present history and facilitate broader analysis of the interplay with the now dominant US model.



Some say management education is a US invention that began at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School in 1881, the initial move of a national professionalization project to transform US managers into trained professionals who would practice with high aims and values (Khurana, 2007). The agenda was to balance American political practice against the American commitment to profit-seeking.

This story pays no attention to the centuries of administrative education in Europe from which Joseph Wharton and others borrowed directly. The US agenda idealized a managerial business-dominated utopia the European schools did not share. Managerial capitalism based on multidivisional firms was the US business model archetype sketched by Chandler (1990). After WW2, as the Chandler model was adopted by European businesses, the US management education model was ported to Europe's universities. Their earlier ‘backwardness’ was explained by institutional factors such as the nature of personal capitalism in the UK and of cooperative capitalism in Germany (Arena, 2011a).

In America, the persistence of the utopian dream of synthesizing social responsibility with capitalist aims led to a stream of articles criticizing the way business knowledge was being delivered (Pfeffer, Fong, 2004) – from both a practical (Mintzberg, 2004) and an ethical (Birnik, Billsberry, 2007) point of view. Higher aims, critics argued, had been subverted.

Other scholars began to look behind the utopian message at what business schools were actually doing, at their added-value to the economic and societal system (Locke, 1996), and at the yawning gap between theory and practice (Pearce, 2004; Spender, 2015). Today the American model of management education has been fully globalized, yet is increasingly challenged (Locke & Spender, 2011; Durand & Dameron, 2008). More histories of European and Asian management education are also providing empirical evidence for different emergence processes (Arena, 2011b; Engwall, 2009; Meuleau, 1995).

Critics of the US model are seldom aware of the earlier ‘European models’ and how they could have led to different orientations in management education. The first European schools of management and commercial education (in the UK, France, and Germany, in particular) included courses in political economy, macroeconomics, and industry issues, and in sociology aimed at providing a better understanding of the socio-economy. These courses were aimed towards better policy-making rather than instrumental efficiency (Arena, 2011b).

But how should American and European management education be compared and contrasted? One hypothesis is that while both US and European management education necessarily served a double agenda – one scientific, the other political – they did so in very different ways (Locke & Spender, 2011; Dameron & Durand, 2011). In the US, the political issues were submerged in the pursuit of a science of managing. In Europe, the scientific knowledge generated by early management education was not considered as ‘useful’ enough by industrialists and management education became an instrument of the second agenda, to prepare a political cadre.

This special track of the 21st AHMO Conference invites new thinking and empirical findings on 18th and 19th century European management education that both supplement present history and facilitate broader analysis of the interplay with the now dominant US model.

In line with the main scientific orientation of the 21st AHMO conference, contributions could, for instance, contribute to two main issues:  

  1. Could 18th-19th century European management education have offered a managerial utopia alternative to the American model?  
  2. How was early European management education institutionalized? Were there gaps between the ideals presented and the institutionalisation process in practice?

Submission guidelines

Contributors are expected to submit their papers to lise.arena@unice.fr, thomas.durand@cnam.fr and jcspender@gmail.com

 by January 5th, 2016

and will be noticed of acceptance by January 15th, 2016.   

Scientific committee

  • Lise Arena, Maître de Conférences en sciences de gestion (Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France)
  • Thomas Durand, Professeur en sciences de gestion (CNAM, France)
  • John-Christopher Spender, Professeur (department of international management, Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland)


  • Belfort, France (90)


  • Tuesday, January 05, 2016


  • gestion, utopie américaine, modèle européen


  • Lise Arena
    courriel : lise [dot] arena [at] gredeg [dot] cnrs [dot] fr
  • Thomas Durand
    courriel : thomas [dot] durand [at] cnam [dot] fr

Information source

  • Lise Arena
    courriel : lise [dot] arena [at] gredeg [dot] cnrs [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Beyond the Managerial Utopia of American Schools of Business Administration », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, December 03, 2015, https://calenda.org/349627

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