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The Hawthorne studies: an analysis of critical perspectives, 1936-1958

Jeffrey Muldoon (School of Business, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 9 January 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper was to analyse the academic context of the Hawthorne studies from 1936. More specifically, great attention was paid towards those articles that were critical of the Hawthorne studies. This study aimed to analyse why the Hawthorne studies were so criticized during the time period.

Design/methodology/approach

The author analysed various critical articles/books from the time period. The author developed the sample through the use of Landsberger’s Hawthorne Revisited. The author used one of the first critical articles, Daniel Bell’s, as a means to analyse the critics. In addition, secondary literature was used to place the articles in context.

Findings

The author found that the majority of the critics were sociologists; these criticisms reflected larger debates in sociology in terms of theory, method and ethics of research. They reflected the great changes that occurred in sociology during the time period, as opposed to industrial/organizational psychology, for example, where there was little criticism at the time.

Originality/value

The purpose of this study was to continue the work of Muldoon (2012) and Hassard (2012) and place the work of the Hawthorne studies in a larger academic context.

Keywords

Citation

Muldoon, J. (2017), "The Hawthorne studies: an analysis of critical perspectives, 1936-1958", Journal of Management History, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 74-94. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-09-2016-0052

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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