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From Higher Aims to Hired Hands:
The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession
Rakesh Khurana

Winner of the 2009 Gold Medal Book Award in Career, Axiom Business
Winner of the 2008 Max Weber Award for Best Book, Organization, Occupations and Work Section of the American Sociological Association
Winner of the 2007 Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Business, Finance and Management, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2010 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691145877
568 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 7 line illus. 15 tables.
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Rakesh Khurana
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Is management a profession? Should it be? Can it be? This major work of social and intellectual history reveals how such questions have driven business education and shaped American management and society for more than a century. The book is also a call for reform. Rakesh Khurana shows that university-based business schools were founded to train a professional class of managers in the mold of doctors and lawyers but have effectively retreated from that goal, leaving a gaping moral hole at the center of business education and perhaps in management itself.

Khurana begins in the late nineteenth century, when members of an emerging managerial elite, seeking social status to match the wealth and power they had accrued, began working with major universities to establish graduate business education programs paralleling those for medicine and law. Constituting business as a profession, however, required codifying the knowledge relevant for practitioners and developing enforceable standards of conduct. Khurana, drawing on a rich set of archival material from business schools, foundations, and academic associations, traces how business educators confronted these challenges with varying strategies during the Progressive era and the Depression, the postwar boom years, and recent decades of freewheeling capitalism.

Today, Khurana argues, business schools have largely capitulated in the battle for professionalism and have become merely purveyors of a product, the MBA, with students treated as consumers. Professional and moral ideals that once animated and inspired business schools have been conquered by a perspective that managers are merely agents of shareholders, beholden only to the cause of share profits. According to Khurana, we should not thus be surprised at the rise of corporate malfeasance. The time has come, he concludes, to rejuvenate intellectually and morally the training of our future business leaders.


"If Prof. Khurana wanted to torment business--school deans, alumni and current students, he couldn't have picked a better way. Prof. Khurana has identified an important imbalance. In the current environment, many brilliant young MBAs don't aspire to be corporate chief executive officers, who struggle to uphold their agendas against pressure from all sides. These students would rather be consultants who earn big money fomenting change. Better yet, they want to be the powerful investors who hire and fire CEOs."--George Anders, The Wall Street Journal

"The book is extremely well written and provides a detailed historical account of US business education from the 1880s to the present day...This text will help many of us in business schools to think about who we are and where we need to go in future. Rakesh Khurana has done a great service to management education with this scholarly and important book."--Gary L. Cooper, Times Higher Education Supplement

"A fascinating history of business education."--The Economist

"Is corporate management a real profession? The intellectual rigor that legitimized business schools and turned the M.B.A. into a recognized credential has fallen by the wayside, argues Khurana, an associate professor at Harvard Business School. Instead of producing young professionals, he says, business schools are treating students as consumers and their education as a commodity. Exhaustively researched, Khurana's book examines the birth of the managerial class, the rise of the business school as an academic institution and what he calls its recent deterioration. This failure has created a climate ripe for corruption, and Khurana issues a call to arms for business schools to take back the high ground."--Tiffany Sharples, Time Magazine

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This book has been translated into:

  • Japanese

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