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The role of non-corporeal Actant theory in historical research: A case study of Henry Wallace and the new deal

Christopher M. Hartt (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)
Albert J. Mills (Department of Management, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada and Department of Business, Ita-Suomen Yliopisto, Kuopio, Finland)
Jean Helms Mills (Department of Management, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada and Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics, Jyväskylä University, Jyvaskyla)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 1 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to study the role of non-corporeal Actant theory in historical research through a case study of the trajectory of the New Deal as one of the foremost institutions in the USA since its inception in the early 1930s.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors follow the trajectory of the New Deal through a focus on Vice President Henry A. Wallace. Drawing on ANTi-History, the authors view history as a powerful discourse for organizing understandings of the past and non-corporeal Actants as a key influence on making sense of (past) events.

Findings

The authors conclude that non-corporeal Actants influence the shaping of management and organization studies that serve paradoxically to obfuscate history and its relationship to the past.

Research limitations/implications

The authors drew on a series of published studies of Henry Wallace and archival material in the Roosevelt Library, but the study would benefit from an in-depth analysis of the Wallace archives.

Practical implications

The authors reveal the influences of non-corporeal Actants as a method for dealing with the past. The authors do this through the use of ANTi-History as a method of historical analysis.

Social implications

The past is an important source of understanding of the present and future; this innovative approach increases the potential to understand.

Originality/value

Decisions are often black boxes. Non-Corporeal Actants are a new tool with which to see the underlying inputs of choice.

Keywords

Citation

Hartt, C.M., Mills, A.J. and Helms Mills, J. (2019), "The role of non-corporeal Actant theory in historical research: A case study of Henry Wallace and the new deal", Journal of Management History, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 60-76. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-01-2019-0004

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited