Examining the Origins of Management Theory: Value Divisions in the Positivist Program

Wayne N. Eastman, James R. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Management theories, such as scientific management and human relations, have traditionally assumed that organizational success can be achieved through the application of science. This assumption is part of a broader belief in social and natural science as the central vehicle for objective knowledge and social betterment, which was cogently expressed in the nineteenth century by Auguste Comte and termed positivism. In this article, the authors trace the relationship between the thought of Comte, his contemporary John Stuart Mill, and twentieth-century management theory, focusing on how value differences and similarities evident more than a century ago have persisted to the present. The authors then propose a typology that classifies these value issues along two major dimensions: uniformity versus diversity and economics versus culture. This typology clarifies the value commitments, explicit or implicit, underlying management theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-328
Number of pages16
JournalThe Journal of Applied Behavioral Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology

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