Dutch consultancies and social scientists in the 1950s and 1960s: developing a field around management issues

Luchien Karsten, Kees van Veen

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In this report, we discuss the proliferation of the field of management issues in the Netherlands in the 1950’s and 1960’s. We mainly focus on the role of the consultants and social scientists. The field developed quickly after World War 2. It proliferated itself on a number of issues, such as the stimulation of productivity. The systemic context in which this proliferation occurred was strongly determined by initiatives of the Dutch government and the pillarisation of the society. The government established the agenda in the field of management knowledge and organised a central player in the field: the Liaison Committee. As a result the diffusion and translation of best practices became more successful. Consultancy firms played an important role in these activities. Another important factor in the proliferation of the consultants as a separate group was their necessary role in the realisation of government policies such as the wage developments on the labour market. This situation changed in the nineteen sixties. The government became less directive. The economic restructuring created new demands for managers and added new issues to the portfolio of consulting firms. Issues as strategy, leadership, co-rdination of large organisations and marketing were rising in importance. American consulting firms started to enter the Dutch market and Dutch consultants started to diffuse the new American practices. At the same time, new issues were rising in importance. Especially the social scientists were involved in large-scale research towards experiments with codetermination within companies. In the years to come, the consulting branch was growing rapidly and constituted more and more an independent force in the structuration of this institutionalized field of management knowledge in the Netherlands.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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