Collaboration in Business and Business History
Capitalist mythology continues to stress charismatic entrepreneurs and the value of incentive structures that reward individual merit. But much recent scholarship has shown that business environments have always depended heavily on social networks and modes of cooperation, whether in the early modern world, amid industrialization, or during the recent decades of globalization. Cooperative impulses suffused the efforts to coordinate behavior across commercial empires, within the modern corporation, among workers in a given industry, and inside the state-owned monopoly; such impulses have always animated the joint endeavors of guilds, urban boosters, rural agricultural reformers, trade associations, industry pressure groups, chaebol, self-regulatory organizations, and cartels. In many contexts, of course, cooperation has prompted stinging social and political critique, whether as coziness with imperial or authoritarian governments, anti-competitive price fixing, corrupt cronyism, or class-based strangleholds on democratic politics.
Despite the salience of collaboration as a theme in business history, the field continues to be characterized by individualistic research practices. Historical works that focus on enterprise are mostly sole-authored works. Although two historians sometimes collaborate on a research project, larger teams remain rare, outside the context of building archival collections (whether manuscript or digital); so too do undertakings that bring business historians together with scholars from other disciplines, whether from the other social sciences or the fast-growing domain of data analytics.
For the 2020 annual meeting of the Business History Conference, we welcome proposals that examine:
· the evolution of cooperative dynamics in specific enterprises and industries, or within the wider business environment, from any period, society, or region;
· the social, cultural, political, legal, and policy responses to cooperation in the business realm, again without limitation to era or geography; and especially
· the challenges and opportunities presented by undertakings in business history that pull together larger teams, including those that incorporate participants with other disciplinary backgrounds and integrate research and education.