The rise of big business is one of the seminal events in American history, and if you want to think about it intelligently, you consult historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr., its preeminent chronicler. At 88, Chandler has retired from the Harvard Business School but is still churning out books and articles. It is an apt moment to revisit his ideas, because the present upheavals in business are second only to those of a century ago.Capitalism's Next Stage - Robert Samuelson, The Washington Post, October 26, 2006
Until Chandler, the emergence of big business was all about titans. The Rockefellers, Carnegies and Fords were either "robber barons" whose greed and ruthlessness allowed them to smother competitors and establish monopolistic empires. Or they were "captains of industry" whose genius and ambition laid the industrial foundations for modern prosperity. But when Chandler meticulously examined business records, he uncovered a more subtle story. New technologies (the railroad, telegraph and steam power) favored the creation of massive businesses that needed -- and in turn gave rise to -- superstructures of professional managers: engineers, accountants and supervisors.
Samuelson thinks that we may be at the end of "managerial capitalism."
I think he's onto something. To quote Alfred Chandler, "All I know is that the commercializing of the Internet is transforming the world."