Origins of Organizing
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Origins of Organizing

Edited by Tuomo Peltonen, Hugo Gaggiotti and Peter Case

The origins of organizing are conventionally seen as emerging from the historiographical works of Western social scientists in the early 20th century. Here, the authors address a gap in current literature by exploring previously unrecognized or marginalized global origins in both modern and ancient history.
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Chapter 8: The Quakers: forgotten pioneers

Donncha Kavanagh and Martin Brigham


Donncha Kavanagh and Martin Brigham present Quakers as a prominent religious and societal movement that should be credited with introducing several pioneering innovations to modern organizing. Quakers were originally a non-conformist Protestant Christian community, whose beliefs centred on the idea of egalitarian unity of humans before God. As Kavanagh and Brigham astutely describe in their chapter, Quakers carried their philosophy of liberal individualism and this-worldly interest to human betterment to the domains of science, technology and commerce, introducing a number of innovations into practice and the moral philosophy of organizing. Their willingness for experimentation, coupled with a management philosophy emphasizing efficiency and simplicity, paved a way for a series of successful businesses across sectors such as finance, engineering and manufacturing. Quakers demonstrate through their idiosyncratic philosophy of a liberal Protestant ethos how business organizations can advocate a Tayloristic pursuit of efficiency and systematization of organizing while at the same time striving for the greater good of society. As forgotten pioneers who demonstrated a unique rapprochement between rational modernity and traditional religious morality, Quakers could offer a radically different understanding of the origin of modern ideas of managing.

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