Cover image for The struggle for control of the modern corporation : organizational change at General Motors, 1924-1970
The struggle for control of the modern corporation : organizational change at General Motors, 1924-1970
Freeland, Robert F., 1957-
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xvii, 364 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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HD9710.U54 G397 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Drawing on primary historical material, The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation, provides a historical overview of decision making and political struggle within one of America's largest and most important corporations. Freeland examines the changes in the General Motors organization between the years 1924 and 1970. He takes issue with the well-known argument of business historian Alfred Chandler and economist Oliver Williamson, who contend that GM's multidivisional structure emerged and survived because it was more efficient than alternative forms of organization.

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Freeland (Stanford Univ.), who uses as primary sources the papers of senior General Motors (GM) and E.I. du Pont de Nemours executives as well as the record related to the U.S. v. DuPont antitrust case, contends that previous scholars have overemphasized GM's reliance on the multidivisional or decentralized structure (M-form). Thought to be the secret to GM's success, the M-form was often the subject of controversy between the GM board of directors and GM management. Following the management model at DuPont, those directors on the board representing DuPont interests felt that strategy was the purview of corporate executives to the exclusion of division managers who might promote divisional interests. Freeland presents evidence that shows GM Chairman Alfred Sloan included divisional management in corporate governance whenever the directors were forced by circumstances to acquiesce. The author references previous scholars in the field of GM scholarship, notably Alfred D. Chandler Jr., Oliver Williamson, and Peter Drucker. Albert Bradley, F. Donaldson Brown, Frederic G. Donner, and Sloan are among the GM executives whose stories are told through references to their personal papers and published works. Recommended for upper-division undergraduate through professional collections. G. W. Goodale Castleton State College

Table of Contents

1 The modern corporation and the problem of order
2 Creating corporate order: conflicting versions of decentralization at GM, 1921-1933
3 Administrative centralization of the M-Form, 1934-1941
4 Participative decentralization redefined: mobilizing for war production, 1941-1945
5 The split between finance and operations: postwar problems and organization structure, 1945-1948
6 Consent as an organization weapon: coalition politics and the destruction of cooperation, 1948-1958
7 Consent destroyed: the decline and fall of General Motors, 1958-1980
8 Conclusion