Event—Scholarly Seminars

Gavin Benke, Boston University, and Kyle Williams, Rutgers University


“Lead Indicators of Revolutionary Change” – Imagining the Future of Business in the 1960s and 1970s, Gavin Benke

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, “the future” became a prominent feature of business discourse as corporate executives and their champions interpreted social upheaval as evidence of a profound historical shift. The implications of such thinking were big. In a new “post-industrial” society, managers and politicians reasoned that the line between business and government would blur. Focusing on the interchange between politicians, journalists, consultants, and managers, this paper traces the development of such corporate futurism that continues to be a feature of management literature and business boosterism.

The End of Managerial Autonomy, Kyle Williams
The late 1960s and 1970s presented the greatest challenge to the power of corporate capitalism since the New Deal. Corporate protestors made their demands at shareholders meetings, in grassroots boycotts, and in public policy proposals over issues ranging from consumer protection to civil rights. But these corporate protests precipitated a decade of shareholder value, not an era of corporate social responsibility. Why did this happen? This paper argues that left-liberal protestors joined with an unlikely coalition of financial consultants and right-wing activists in their attacks against the autonomy of the professional managerial class. All three groups contributed to the decline of managerialism and the rise of Wall Street in the late twentieth century.