RetroBlogging: Burnham’s “The Managerial Revolution” QOTD

I’m right now working on a project where I’m going through some big mid-20th century economic and political sociology works (e.g. Galbraith, Bell, etc.) to look at how they talk about the separation of ownership and control. This morning’s task is Burnham (1941) The Managerial Revolution. Burnham argues that we must think of management/owners as disaggregated into four groups (technical managers, profit-oriented executives who don’t actually make anything, finance-capitalists and small stockholders with no actual control) who all have different outlooks on life. All of which leads to our retro-sociology quote of the day:

The different things which these different groups do promote in their respective members different attitudes, habits of thought, ideals, ways and methods of solving problems. To put it crudely: the managers tend to think of solving social and political problems as they co-ordinate and organize the actual process of production; the nonmanagerial executives think of society as a price-governed profit-making animal; the finance-capitalists think of problems in terms of what happens in the banks and stock exchanges and security flotations; the little stockholders think of the economy as a mysterious god who, if placated properly, will hand out free gifts to the deserving.

I think the last line is particularly great (and not just because it’s a great, early-ish example of the modern use of the phrase “the economy”).



  1. Natalie

     /  September 1, 2009


  2. I might have written this too soon, I don’t know. Here’s an even equally awesome quote from JK Galbraith’s American Capitalism, 1952,p. 77-78:

    It is apparent that public spending is only one of the remedies implicit in the Keynesian system. Abatement of taxes in order to leave private individuals more money to spend and measures to stimulate private investment or discourage saving would have a similar effect. However, it is always for his prodigality that a man is known – Henry VIII for his wives, Louis XV for his mistresses and General Douglas MacArthur for his prose. The Keynesian has become forever associated with public spending.