Strategic Games, Scale, and Efficiency, or <i>Chandler goes to Hollywood</i><sup>1</sup>

Leslie Hannah

in Business in Britain in the Twentieth Century

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199226009
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191710315 | DOI:
Strategic Games, Scale, and Efficiency, or Chandler goes to Hollywood1

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The many errors and misjudgments in Alfred D. Chandler's Scale and Scope derive from its framing in an established Anglo-American Whig-Progressive misinterpretation of business and technological history. Case studies of copper and tobacco show that his narratives of global oligopolistic competition in these industries require complete inversion: his alleged successes are more appropriately cast as failures and vice-versa. Such cases are not unique, but representative. His central propositions — that the British were rarely capable of building efficient managerial hierarchies, distinctively preferred family to professional management and headquartered proportionately fewer persistent global industrial oligopolists than both Germany and the United States — have all been comprehensively falsified. Further progress in internationally comparative business history requires a return to the higher standards of Chandler's earlier work and more disciplined quantification of comparisons conceived without the bias of hindsight.

Keywords: managerial performance; oligopoly entrenchment; copper industry; cigarette industry; comparative business history

Chapter.  17554 words. 

Subjects: Business History

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