This paper takes a long-term view of how the US public and private sectors have been viewed in relation to each other. It notes that since the time of approximately the Nixon Administration, each sector has not been viewed favourably by the public. Over the past 40 years, the private sector has been perceived as being run by the unscrupulous and the public sector by incompetents. The essay argues that Donald Trump was able to exploit these circumstances to win the 2016 election.
This paper presents a polemic. It relies on archival research and data to create a new view of historical eras in US business history. The object of analysis is the idea of relative legitimacy, the public image of the State vis-a-vis business and business managers.
Although the paper addresses business history, a novel argument is presented about the 2016 US Presidential election. It is proposed that Trump took advantage of unique historical circumstances; therefore, his win had more to do with the moment than with him personally.
The paper interprets the 2016 Presidential race as the end-point of a 250-year journey. It sets a new agenda, in that previous analyses have mostly viewed the ascendancy of Trump as pertaining to distinctively post-industrial twenty-first-century phenomena.
In analysing the 2016 Presidential race, the emphasis is largely removed from issues of personality or partisan politics.
The paper takes a view of the 2016 election which has not hitherto been adopted. It proposes a new concept – relative legitimacy – as having a substantial explanatory value.
Gould, A.M., Bourk, M.J. and Joullié, J.-E. (2017), "From the industrial revolution to Trump: Six periods of changing perceptions of American business managers", Journal of Management History, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 471-488. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-04-2017-0018Download as .RIS
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