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The Business Person/Professional Manager as Influencer of Public Policy

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Management History

An opportunity to have a draft reviewed for a world-leading journal: ranked “A” on the 2016 Australian Business Dean`s Council (ABDC) list

The Business Person/Professional Manager as Influencer of Public Policy: History’s Lessons about How the Private Sector and its Actors Influence the World of Partisan or Large-P politics in Western Democracies

Business people, investors, entrepreneurs and those who manage their affairs tend to move in different social and intellectual orbits to politicians. The apartheid between each group is largely intentional. Business people and public-sector types often do not get along, yet also often seem strangely mutually attracted. For all that, they must coexist in capitalist market economies (Nie and Hillygus, 2001).

The uneasy truce between the public and private sector has a history that goes back almost to the beginning of the industrial age. The world’s first business school, l’École Spéciale de Commerce et d’Industrie, commenced operations in Paris in 1819 (Joullié and Spillane, 2015). Notwithstanding the era’s growing emphasis on the separation of ownership and management of private capital that came in the wake of the industrial revolution and other changes driving the professionalization of the management class, the French business community largely opposed the new school. Such antagonism and an absence of government support contributed to the institution going bankrupt in 1869 and subsequently being re-established as the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris. Much of the context for debate at that time about how to train private-sector managers still exists. An element of this context concerns the perceived incompatibility between how business people and those in the public-sector see the world. The opposing perspectives of two men who had different visions for the original École Spéciale embody the substance of these antithetical views. On the one hand, there was Jean-Baptiste Say who sought to amend Adam Smith’s contention that it is a near law of nature that business people are subordinated to the market’s invisible hand. Partly in an effort to enlarge the role and moral authority of the private sector, Say resurrected the term “entrepreneur” to suggest that capitalists have it within their gift to shape society for the better. On the other hand, trader turned central banker Vital Roux took a narrower view. He saw the merchant, the person who buys and sells for profit, as a mere prisoner to Smith’s immutable law and downplayed his creative or transformative potential. Roux went further. Influenced by technological advancement that had been instrumental in the emergence of industrial life, he promoted a philosophy of the management function that was largely based on (and perhaps limited by) the paradigm of engineering, with its accompanying concepts of efficiency, optimisation, measurement and the like. History reveals that, at least in one sense, the view of Roux triumphed over that of Say. When the American ‘scientific’ managers such as Henry Towne, Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford pushed his philosophy further and were able to demonstrate its utility, the stage was largely set for a modern 20th-century conception of the right way to manage private affairs. However, Say’s perspective did not really go away. Despite being largely suppressed in the modern enterprise of business management as distinct from entrepreneurship where it finds expression, it has also been taken-up by different people: those impacted by a broader range of influences, namely those concerned with public administration.

The mutual scepticism between capitalists (and to a greater extent their manager-agents) and political and government types notwithstanding, private sector leaders often seek to involve themselves with politics. Perhaps the most apparent form of this cross-over effect is the phenomenon of the businessman politician. Such an archetype was envisaged by the US Founding Fathers as the citizen statesman; the man who leaves the farm, the grocery store, or the large enterprise they created from scratch to go and sort things out for their community with common sense and an eye for the bottom-line. Cases of the middle-aged business person seeking public office for the first time typically stand out: Herbert Hoover, Ross Perrot, Carly Fiorina and of course President Donald Trump. But there are other circumstances where business people manifest interest in and seek to influence public policy. Western democracies, particularly in modern times, are replete with examples of prominent private-sector types who endorse particular candidates. This happens on the left and the right of the political spectrum. There are also examples where prominent business people do not associate themselves with a candidate but do want to push an issue. In such cases, the industry captain usually points to their experience in the boardroom or on the factory (or trading) floor as giving them special insight into how something in the public sphere should be done differently. Once again, this should not be thought of as only existing on one side of the spectrum.

Proposed Special Issue of the Journal of Management History
This special issue examines the interface between the business world (i.e., business people) and the world of Partisan or Large-P politics in Western liberal democracies. The special issue will not be concerned with one-sided diatribes and/or personal critiques of the styles, words or policy prescriptions of particular protagonists. Rather, the point is to develop theory about the nature of the cross-over phenomenon between private-sector leadership and those seeking or occupying public office. To the extent that case studies about characters are relevant, such material should be used to support and/or as evidence for, theoretical point(s) and thus not become focal. Hence, contributions which are critical of particular individuals and/or appear to be pushing a partisan positon are discouraged. Rather, drawing on examples from history, the guest editors welcome submissions from scholars who shed light on the following kinds of issues:

•    Under what circumstances can business persons entering politics keep their corporate identity? For example, do we think of Michael Bloomberg as a businessman who entered politics or as a former politician (Mayor of New York) who, prior to that, was successful in business? Relatedly, is it inevitable that non-politicians become politicians upon seeking office or can such a person have a political career and then return to business/management never having really been relabelled/reinvented? What does history say about this? Did the idea conceived of by the US founding fathers as the ‘citizen statesman’ die-out? If yes, when? Did it ever exist or was it an idealistic vision that never materialised?

•    How does the influence of business/management affect politics/public policy when the political spectrum is shifting to the right because of economic policies’ globalisation? One hypothesis here is that the globalisation of trade and economic exchanges pulls business and management further to the right (i.e. it acts as an accelerator on the rightward pull). Another possibility would be that, in other circumstances (e.g. owing perhaps to NGOs and fair trade activists), aspects of global trade act as a break on the rightward pull.

•    What kinds of roles are played by those who are prominent in business/management when they seek to influence politics, either directly or by way of interventions in (or contribution to) government projects? The obvious one is to become a politician but there are possibly several others. For instance, there is the role of elder-statesman king-maker/candidate endorser (Jack Welch pushing hard for Romney in the 2012 campaign) and the roles of seemingly self-interested lobbyist without a favoured candidate (e.g. Koch brothers). There is also the role of seemingly altruistic lobbyist without a favoured candidate (e.g. Buffet, Gates) or with a favoured candidate (George Soros who endorsed Barack Obama and not Hillary Clinton in 2008). Can a solid taxonomy (classification scheme) about roles be presented and defended?

•    When leftist approaches to management or from managers/business people (such as Warren Buffet’s push with a Keynesian-type rationale for a more progressive taxation system) spill over into the political arena, are they more likely to be influential/effective/enduring than right-wing approaches (such as the Koch brothers’ push with a supply-side/trickle-down rationale for a more regressive taxation system)? Are there discernible historical trends concerning this issue? Does the idea of a business leader arguing against their own interests create special momentum for a public-policy issue? What does history say about this?

•    Insofar as pundits and the media are concerned, who (or what kind of political-influencer) is more likely to be treated with askance and/or meet with hostility: those entering/influencing from the right or left? Before the New Deal in the US (and elsewhere), the fringe of the American polity was mostly leftist with much of its agenda – e.g., ‘the Peoples’ Party’ of the late 19th century, the ‘Know-nothings’ just after the Civil War.

Timeline and Submission
Submissions for the special issue are due on 01 – March 2018. Contributors should follow the directions for manuscript submission presented in the "Information for Authors" section on the website of the Journal of Management History and submit their work through the journal’s manuscript central facility:

Authors should indicate when submitting their draft that their submission is for consideration in the special issue, to appear in the JMH in 2019. It is possible that this Special Issue project will ultimately culminate in an edited scholarly book.

Guest Editors
•    Professor Anthony M Gould, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada and Visiting Professor, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. [email protected]
•    A/Professor Jean-Etienne Joullié, Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait. [email protected]
•    A/Professor Kathleen M Park PhD (MIT), Boston University and Research Fellow in Global Studies and International Management, MIT Sloan School of Management,[email protected]
Professors Gould, Joullié and Park would be pleased to consult with scholars who are considering making a submission to the Special Issue. Get in touch and let us know about your ideas!

Bacon, N. & Storey, J. 1993. Individualization of the Employment Relationship and the Implications for Trade Unions. Employee Relations, 15(1): 5-17.
Joullié J. E. and Spillane, R. (2015). The Philosophical Foundations of Management Thought. New York. Lexington Books.
Nie, N and Hillygus, D, S. (2001). Education and Democratic Citizenship in Ravitch, D. and Viteritti, J.P. eds. Making Good Citizens: Education and Civil Society. New Haven. Yale University Press.