The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation: Organizational Change at General Motors, 1924-1970

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Cambridge University Press, 2001 - 364 pages
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Drawing on primary historical material, this book provides a historical overview of decision making and political struggle within one of America's largest corporations. Robert Freeland examines the changes in General Motors organization between the years 1924 and 1970. He takes issue with the argument of business historian Alfred Chandler and economist Oliver Wiliamson, who contend that GM's multidivisional structure emerged and survived because it was more efficient than alternative forms of organization. The book illustrates that for most of its history, GM intentionally violated the fundamental axioms of efficient organization put forth by these analysts. Moreover, it was top management that advocated these changes. Owners vehemently opposed them, touching off a struggle over corporate organization inside GM that lasted for decades. Freeland uses the GM case to re-examine existing theories of corporate governance.
 

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Contents

The Modern Corporation and the Problem of Order
xiv
Creating Corporate Order Conflicting Versions of Decentralization at GM 19211933
38
Administrative Centralization of the Mform 19341941
76
Participative Decentralization Redefined Mobilizing for War Production 19411945
122
The Split between Finance and Operations Postwar Problems and Organization Structure 19451948
169
Consent as an Organizational Weapon Coalition Politics and the Destruction of Cooperation 19481958
216
Consent Destroyed The Decline and Fall of General Motors 19581980
264
Conclusion
288
General Motors Financial Performance 19211987
317
Index
348
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About the author (2001)

Robert F. Freeland is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. He has published in the American Journal of Sociology and Business History Review, and is the recipient of the 1998 Social Science History Association's President's Book Prize for this book.

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