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Americanisation in 20th Century Europe: business, culture, politics. Volume 2

 | 
Nick Tiratsoo
, 
Mathias Kipping

The Americanisation of Swedish and Norwegian management

Haldor Byrkjeflot

Résumé

Cet article étudie deux modèles américains de management — celui qui repose sur l’idéologie de la responsabilité sociale et le Kenningism — et retrace la façon dont ils furent reçus en Norvège et en Suède après 1945. Il est clair que leur impact respectif fut très différent dans les deux pays. J’explique pourquoi ce fut le cas et quelles leçons tirer de ces deux exemples pour comprendre d’une façon générale les transferts culturels.

Texte intégral

introduction

  • 1 C. Myrvang, “West of Eden – Norwegian industry in the shadow of Swedish grandeur 1914 to 1939”, in (...)

1All the Scandinavian countries have become more Americanized after the Second World War, after having been more attuned to the German model of management and corporate governance. Sweden has been the major model for Norway, at least until the 1980s, so Sweden served as a filter for the import of both German and American models. There was a decline in the eagerness among Norwegians to follow the Swedish example from the 1980s, however, when the wealth increase following in the wake of oil exploration was starting to be felt. From then on the American influence on consumption and cultural and academic styles may have been at least as strong and direct in Norway as in Sweden.1

2In this chapter I will discuss two examples of Americanisation in Scandinavian management. The first example is the social responsibility ideology, a model that was imported to Sweden, but not to Norway in the early post-war era. Ironically, this was exactly the stakeholder model of business management that has later been held up as a European alternative to what is now considered the American model of corporate governance: shareholder value. The other example is Kenningism. This was a management movement mainly oriented towards establishing efficient management structures within business firms and organizations. Kenningism had a substantial influence in Norway, but failed in Sweden. I will then use these examples as a background for a comparison between the strategies and the ideologies of the industrial bourgeoisie in Norway and Sweden.

the impact of american management models

  • 2 C. Maier, “Society as Factory – Between Taylorism and Technocracy”, in C. S. Maier, In Search of S (...)

3When speaking about American models of management I refer to specific techniques, concepts and ideologies developed in an American context that were picked up and used by actors in Norway and Sweden. Maier has summarized the development of management models in the United States: “Taylorite managers had to govern the shop floor ; managers of the 1930s had to win their employees’ hearts and minds, and the idealized businessman of the post-war period had to help shape national economic and social priorities”.2 The three ideologies in this description are Taylorism, human relations and the stakeholder model of management. All these ideologies depend on particular managerial techniques. For instance, Taylorism relied on time and motion studies, whereas the human relations model was linked more to techniques of personnel selection and teamwork. The purpose of the stakeholder model was to establish legitimacy for business in society. It relied on public relations techniques, as well as schemes for opinion molding and political campaigns. I will now discuss the background and impact of these two specific models, both imported from the US and translated into Scandinavia.

the stakeholder model of corporate governance

  • 3 Ibid. p. 64.
  • 4 A. Carew, Labour Under the Marshall Plan, Detroit, MI, Wayne State University Press, 1987.

4The stakeholder model of corporate governance was pioneered by the American business organization Committee for Economic Development (CED) as part of a post-war strategy for business in the USA. The CED represented an American analogue of the industrial peak associations that had long been a feature of European business organization. But it defined its task in a more upbeat and less defensive way: “it presupposed... that business... in good American fashion... was the general interest”.3 Management should operate as a trustee in recognition of the claims of employees, investors, consumers and government. Although developed in a rather unique American cultural context, such business ideologies were developed into an export product along with the American aid programmes in Europe. The Ford Foundation, in particular, encouraged European countries to set up employer organizations analogous to CED.4 This model, which also has been referred to as “the social responsibility ideology” of business affairs, was imported to Sweden by amongst others the industrial manager Axel Iveroth, who had studied CED during a long visit to the USA.

  • 5 L. Lewin, Planhushållningsdebatten, Stockholm, Almquist & Wiksell, 1967; K. Ullenhag, I takt med t (...)
  • 6 Lewin 1967: 375.

5The Swedish business fund (Næringslivets fond), an agency that acted in defense of business interests, had started to think about new ways of promoting its cause after the social democrats narrowly gained a majority at the elections of 1948. Rather than taking part directly in political clashes over issues of state-directed economic planning and socialization, that had set their mark on society between 1944 and 1948, it now wanted to take an independent role between the extreme positions. It contacted Iveroth and some other younger businessmen, among them Tore Browaldh and the banking director Lars-Erik Thunholm. Browaldh and Thunholm had also visited the USA during the War years. Browaldh had worked for four months as personal assistant to Gunnar Myrdal, the famous Swedish economist and author of An American Dilemma. He continued to work with Myrdal when he got back to Sweden and became a member of the committee for post-war economic planning.5 Browaldh sought to develop a new business creed, which could replace, in his mind, outdated business ideologies. The modem top manager had to take a different view of the role of the firm. Along with Schumpeter, he saw increasing public influence over business life as an “irreversible process”.6

  • 7 K. Ullenhag, Itakt med tiden: SNS åren 1948-1998, Stockholm, SNS Förlag, 1998; N. Stenlås, “The ri (...)

6Iveroth and Browaldh were younger than the industrial managers that had been central in the business campaign against a planned society, and they acted in accordance with a formula that they had discovered in the USA. They took the initiative to the Center for Business and Policy Studies (Studieförbundet Näringsliv och Samhälle – SNS) which did investigations in economic matters, as well as publishing, and organising seminars with businessmen, researchers and journalists. There was a need to combine the strategies of opinion molding with a demand for business to take a greater measure of social responsibility. These directors obtained leading positions in Swedish business affairs during the 1950s. Tore Browaldh became CEO of the largest bank in Sweden (Handelsbanken), Lars-Erik Thunholm headed the second largest (Skandinaviska banken), while Axel Iveroth became CEO of the Federation of Swedish Industries. They were recurrent members of the famous Harpsund conferences, which set the parameters for the development of Swedish society in the 1950s.7 The term ‘Harpsund democracy’ has been used to reflect the strong influence of the heads of Swedish industry in setting the limits on how far the social democrats could go in their aims to transform Swedish society.

  • 8 E. Rhenman, Företagsdemokrati och företagsorganisation, Stockholm, Norstedts, 1964; L. Lidén, Makt (...)
  • 9 S. Tengblad, “Corporate governance from a social movement perspective: The case of Sweden”, paper (...)

7In the 1960s SNS continued to present studies that shaped the perception of corporate control in Sweden. The owners were regarded as one stakeholder among others and management was described as an “independent” power. The task of the top manager was to achieve a balance of interests between the different stakeholders.8 The gradual shift towards a shareholder value model of corporate governance became apparent in the 1980s. A research programme about ownership and company development was initiated, and managers were no longer viewed as impartial guardians of efficiency and fair distributors of power and resources. There was now more emphasis on the responsibilities of the owners for the long-term development of the firm.9 This change of attitude was associated with a change of government and the defeat of the proposals for wage earner funds in 1991, brought about by a growing neo-liberal movement advocating de-regulations of markets and privatization of public companies.

kenningism

8Whereas the SNS model was based on the idea that the top manager was a trustee of other societal interests, the Kenning model of management was mainly oriented towards the effective organization of the internal affairs of the company. It is certainly not a business ideology oriented towards the legitimation of the firm in society of the kind represented by the social responsibility ideology. The most provocative among Kenning’s principles was his insistence that managers had to take responsibility for internal organizational affairs, and that workers should only obey orders. Furthermore, he argued that Scandinavian managers, due to their cultural predispositions, had great problems with developing any understanding of management at all. He saw it as his task to change attitudes, if necessary by provoking and making the managers irritated. The purpose was to have them change their practices and view of each other’s roles. It was for this reason that he put so much emphasis on the necessity to implement and create an understanding of a complete concept or philosophy of management. He would always start his management development programmes with the top managers and work downwards in the organization. Kenning presented a set of techniques and pedagogical principles that, if implemented, would supposedly affect a change in attitudes and create a coherent System for hierarchical authority within any firm or organization.

  • 10 N. Schjander, Hvis jeg bare hadde en bedre sjef. George Kenning om ledelse, Oslo, Hjemmets bokforl (...)

9George Kenning had been invited to Norway by the Norwegian Productivity Institute (NPI) as part of an American-funded programme for ‘industrial training’ in 1955. He was used by some of the largest industrial corporations for around 30 years. He developed personal attachments to important industrialists and managers. Before Kenning became a consultant and the central node in such an influential network, he was employed for more than 20 years at General Motors (GM), where he worked his way from worker and union organiser to management. He spent the period between 1950 and 1954 as a personnel manager at the GM factory in Antwerp that had to be entirely rebuilt after Second World War.10

10There developed an aura of exclusivity and charismatic authority around his practice in Norway that might be explained by personal characteristics, but also his American background and the timing of his ideas. General Motors was the largest and most respected firm in the world by 1955 with 600,000 employees. There may also have been a peculiar fit between his ideas and the predominant predispositions in Norwegian culture, for example the prevailing anti-intellectualism in Norwegian social democracy and the shipping milieu. There may also be a generational aspect attached to the use of his ideas, since it was basically a ‘new’ elite of prospective professional managers that ended up as missionaries for Kenningism in Norway.

  • 11 NPI – Norsk Produktivitetsinstitutt, Personalorganisasjon, personalutvikling og opplœring, Oslo, N (...)
  • 12 Karlsson 1968: 32-33.
  • 13 NPI 1959.

11Kenning did not write anything unless it was strictly demanded of him. Others had to present his ideas and cases.11 Even the Praxes, his famous 31 theses of management, were not entirely of his own making. In the first place he had 35 theses, but ended up with 31 as a consequence of a process involving top managers at the Swedish mining firm LKAB in the autumn of 1966 and the spring of 1967.12 The Praxes were guidelines for managers demonstrating how to be an expert and a professional in management, as opposed to being an expert in a specific functional field. They were a set of rules about how to understand the management function, how to develop accountability, how to distinguish between line and staff relations, and what it meant to be loyal to the firm. This was a more focused and scaled down version of the original model of management development at General Motors.13 Kenning, as well as GM, focused on the need to develop managerial hierarchies and establish a functional division of labour between managers.

  • 14 J. Nyhamar, Nye utfordringer. Arbeiderbevegelsens Historie i Norge bind 6, Oslo, Tiden Norsk Forla (...)
  • 15 Utnes 1993.
  • 16 Väckans Affärer, 14 March 1968.

12The Praxes were spread to the whole class of managers at LKAB in a large–scale development programme from 1967 to 1969. The implementation was brought to an end by the famous Kiruna strike that started in December of 1969, and lasted 56 days. The Kiruna strike, which was the beginning of a wave of similar strikes, has been seen as the start of a new era in management-labour relations in Scandinavia.14 One of the demands from the strike committee was that the firm had to abandon Kenning’s theses of management. The strike thus brought the Kenning principles of management into the public eye, and the debate that followed was not good news for those who wanted his management programme to succeed. It has been maintained that both the employer organizations and the unions wanted to get rid of him.15 He gave interviews were he implied that Swedish managers also had a long way to go, but that they were at least a bit more professional than Norwegian managers, who preferred to have much leisure rime and enjoy nature rather than take upon themselves the task of managing anything. He left Sweden after having worked with more than 150 Swedish managers.16

  • 17 SMEC, “Planning for Productivity A Basic Mission Analysis”, Oslo, Special Mission to Norway for Ec (...)
  • 18 S. Riksåsen, Libertas 1947-1953, Oslo, Elingaard, 1973.
  • 19 F. Sejersted, “Capitalism and Democracy – a Comparison between Norway and Sweden”, in H. Byrkjeflo (...)

13Kenning was not alone in taking a critical attitude towards the State of the art in Norwegian management. Norwegian managers were explicitly criticized in a ‘basic analysis’ by the local Marshall Plan mission in Norway for being amongst the most conservative and backward looking elites in Europe, ridden by a “psychopathic fear of socialism”.17 In fact, a large proportion of the industrial elites in Norway did support the economic-liberal right-wing organization Libertas in the early post-war era.18 Norway also had its debate on the planned society between 1948 and 1952. One would think, then, that there was room for an institution like SNS in Norway, too – an institution that aimed to develop a ‘middle way’ between conservative employers and the labour movement. Instead Norway got the Kenning model of management. It was the democracy at work movement, however, that was most salient in politics and public debate. This movement was based on the idea that the organization of workplace affairs was a key element in the establishment of a democracy, and was strongly supported by labour unions and the social democratic parties. It was argued that such affairs ought to be subject to legal regulation and negotiation between workers and employers. The term ‘democratic capitalism’ has been used to characterize Norwegian society in this epoch, indicating that the business elites were always on trial and had to legitimate their actions by norms of equality.19

  • 20 N. Naguib, Med Kall til Ledelse, mannlig lederkultur i Norge, Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, 1996; T.(...)
  • 21 Karlsson 1968.

14The Kenning model of management challenged many of the norms underpinning Scandinavian social democracy, however, and one also might think that there was a latent conflict with the democracy at work movement. A small, but influential group of professional managers, who regarded themselves as outsiders, made use of their relationship with Kenning and his ideas to bolster a view of themselves as the real heroes in the modernization of Norwegian industry. Kenning gave them confidence in their attempts to act as managers and give direction in organizational affairs.20 Kenning presented a provocative, principled and holistic view of management. He engaged in a close and intense dialogue and discussion with managers in small groups, and sought to persuade them to adopt a complete ‘programme’ for management. His followers insisted that the Praxes were only a “pedagogical tool”, but it is difficult to reconcile this with the strong emphasis on having all managers agree on a rather large set of principles. At LKAB he was introduced as “the relational consultant”, meaning that he saw it as his main objective to change relations and attitudes among managers, rather than make changes in organizational charts. It was his analysis that Scandinavian managers avoided face-to-face contact and confrontation with each other, and that it was a problem for them to open up and reveal their opinions of and feelings towards each other. He always started at the top, first training top managers to become trainers for managers at a lower level.21

  • 22 Dagbladet, 1 January 1970.
  • 23 D. Ellingsen, “På tide å ta farvel med Kenning”, Økonomisk Rapport, 7, 1989, p. 62-64; R. Kalleber (...)
  • 24 G. Utnes, “Forskeres Kenning-kritikk”, Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 3, 1992, p. 307-315; Dagens Nœringsl (...)

15One may only speculate on the reasons for the relative lack of conflicts around Kenningism in Norway, relative to Sweden. There were, with a few exceptions22, no public debates about Kenning’s activities until the publication of a book in the 1987. This generated a response among consultants, journalists and academics.23 Kenning does not seem to have provoked similar kinds of resistance among Norwegian workers and labour representatives as among similar groups in Sweden. One of the reasons for this may have been that he learnt from the Kiruna affair, and deliberately took a less public role in Norway.24 A tacit understanding between employers, researchers and union representatives may also have developed, leading them to downplay the role of Kenning when dealing with workers and the media. Norway is a smaller country, and there may have been stronger ties between labour elites and industrial elites during the resistance against the Nazis during World War Two.

  • 25 Schjander 1987.
  • 26 Schjander 1987.
  • 27 Schjander 1988.
  • 28 H. Byrkjeflot, “Fra ledelse til management”, in H. Byrkjeflot (ed.) Fra Styring til Ledelse, Berge (...)

16What is of a major interest is how the Kenning programme could be so widely diffused in Norway in the late 1980s, after having met so much resistance in Sweden in the early 1970s, and having been a well-kept ‘secret’ in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Schjander’s book, presenting the 31 management theses, became a bestseller, and nine editions had been printed by 1995.25 His ideas were used as inspiration for managers and policy-makers in the health services, the railways, the banks, the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry, and in many large industrial companies. One of the reasons for this success may have been that Schjander and his colleagues presented the principles in a rather decontextualized manner, without putting any emphasis on their genesis at LKAB and the controversy provoked by them during and after the Kiruna conflict. Kenning does mention his experiences with Swedish firms in the First edition of Schjander’s book,26 and also in the English edition,27 but this part was not included in later editions. Kenning died one year after the book appeared. In hindsight, it is striking how successful the Kenning ‘missionaries’ were in having their principles implemented in large firms’ mission statements. Indeed, most of the large Norwegian firms with such statements have used Kenning’s Praxes as their prototype. The attempt by top managers to implement the management principles have caused them some trouble, however. Kenning’s disciples in Norway were blamed for the banking crisis as well as the problems in the State railways and in the failed Storebrand raid against Scandia in the early 1990s. For the most part the attempts to implement Kenning’s ideas in the public sector must be characterized as a failure, for instance in the hospitals, where a government report that made suggestions for a change in management Systems was buried after having been met with much resistance.28

  • 29 R.P. Amdam and R. Kvålshaug, “Etablering og utvikling av lederkulturer: Norsk kenningisme”, Nordis (...)

17It is intriguing, then, how the major institutions established by Kenning survived his death in 1988. Meetings initiated by Kenning as part of his Consulting practice developed into institutions like ‘the June meetings’ and ‘The president’s club’, in which he brought prominent managers together for discussions and reflections about their own role in their companies and Norwegian society.29

18An interesting topic, too, is the relationship between the Norwegian industrial elites and academics and intellectuals, particularly scholars in management and organisation theory as well as journalists and other scholars taking a particular interest in this field. The public debate that arose in the 1990s demonstrated that both academic scholars and a large part of the media did not have a very positive view of Kenning’s management philosophy. The Kenning controversy in the 1990s may have strengthened the mutual disrespect that had developed between industrialists and scholars and intellectuals in Norway. One may also suggest that Kenning’s background as a union organiser, and the fact that his education was of the ‘practical’ kind (i.e. from the General Motors institute) may have helped him gaining acceptance.

discussion

  • 30 Karlsson 1968.

19What is interesting about these two cases is that there has been nothing quite like the SNS stakeholder model in Norway after the Second World War, and nothing quite like Kenningism in Sweden during the same period. As has been mentioned, there was a large-scale effort to introduce the Kenning principles in LKAB in 1966-1969, but this is really an exception that underlines the fact that Kenningism did not catch hold in Sweden as a whole. Indeed, the controversy following the wild-cat strike in 1969-1970 led Kenning to give up his work as a consultant in Sweden, even though he has spent a lot of time there between 1966 and 1969. LKAB was a mining company with a rather simple managerial and professional structure30, but it was also a model firm with great ambitions in labour relations and management. In general Swedish firms had tended to develop more advanced managerial structures than Norwegian firms, LKAB being no exception. The Norwegian State initiated a considerable number of large-scale industrial projects in the early post-war era, often in places with no experiences of large-scale organizational hierarchies, and this may explain why there was such a demand for Kenning’s Consulting practice in Norway.

  • 31 S. Sevje, “En uheldig hund i keglespill. Studieselskapet for norsk industri”, unpublished hovedfag (...)
  • 32 SNS/Norge, “Jubileumsskrift ved 20-årsdagen for Studieselskapet Samfunn og Næringsliv”, Oslo, 1976

20It is not quite clear why the social responsibility ideology did not gain an institutional grip in Norway. There were certain efforts in this direction, for example the Study Group for Norwegian Industry (SNI), founded in 1943, and also SNS Norway, founded in 1955. The former might be regarded as an attempt by major Norwegian businessmen, like Gunnar Schjelderup at Spigerverket, to wrest the initiative from the post-war Economic planning initiatives that were carried out by the exile government in London. The study group received broad support, but did not by any account live up to its own ambitions. Neither did it develop a business ideology of the kind exemplified by the SNS. Indeed, it exemplifies the typical Norwegian pattern of the State taking over the initiative, as SNS was in its entirety co-opted into the state-sponsored research organization NTNF in 1958. As was so often the case in Norway, the State had to intervene and compensate for the lack of business initiative.31 The other example of a failed attempt to modernize business ideology in Norway was the founding of SNS Norway in 1955. The model for this group was clearly SNS Sweden, but it took a different approach to its Swedish forerunner, with a much more traditional view of the role of business, ending up as a marginal phenomenon having problems with establishing any legitimacy outside of a limited circle of ship-owners and conservatives.32

  • 33 Sejersted 2001: 87-119.
  • 34 Lewin 1967; F. Sejersted, “Sosialdemokratiet finner sin form. Kampen om fullmaktslovene etter 1945 (...)
  • 35 Lewin 1967: 334.

21Several reasons may be suggested for the stronger position of the social responsibility ideology and the relative failure of Kenningism in Sweden. Firstly, business interests were stronger in Sweden. The large firms that developed in Norway after the Second World War were mainly State firms. The boom that helped Swedish large firms like ASEA, Ericson and Volvo to take an international lead made its presence felt in Norway too, but in private businesses, it led to what was called an ‘ashtray’ industry.33 There were also similarities, of course. In order to avoid a confrontation over private ownership after the Second World War, the idea of a planned economy was launched both in Sweden and Norway. This idea provoked strong resistance among employers and merchants, leading to what has been called in Sweden the debate about a ‘planned society’(Planhushållninsgdebatten) and in Norway the political struggle about the Price and Rationalisation Act. The level of ideological conflict was much stronger in Sweden, however, due to the strength of the Conservative-Liberal campaign for private ownership. The timing of the respective debates may also have mattered, since the debate in Sweden took place mainly between 1944 and 1948, and in Norway between 1945 and 19 5 3.34 The liberal-conservative position was strengthened by the Swedish debate, while it seems to have been weakened in the case of Norway. This gave the liberals a boost in the 1948 election, and the Swedish social democrats were barely able to continue in government. The Norwegian social democrats strengthened their position in government both in the 1949 and 1953 elections, however. The outcome was also different. The consequence of the business counter-offensive in Sweden was that the State did not increase its influence in business. The Swedish social democrats’ efforts to intervene in industry and create a climate for democratisation and structural rationalisation were largely relinquished. A new attempt was not made until the 1960s.35 State efforts in this direction were more of a success in Norway, where a new law gave the political powers extensive authority to overrule the management in the individual companies with regard to strategic decisions concerning investments, production and prices.

  • 36 B. Gustavsen, “Industrial democracy”, in E. Allardt et al. (eds.), Nordic Democracy Copenhagen, De (...)

22Secondly, the divergent roles of the democracy at work movements were significant. The democracy at work movements became important both in Norway and Sweden. Such movements began earlier in Norway and their influence was more strongly felt at the political level. Projects for work reform and democratization and rationalization were joint projects in Norway, involving unions, employers and researchers. Such joint projects achieved more limited importance in Sweden early on, but it turned out that employers in Sweden took a greater interest in such methods and reforms in the long run than their Norwegian counterparts. Such projects were in general more likely to be employer-initiated and more widely diffused than similar projects in Norway. It was thus reported that the industrial development programme had been diffused to about 500 enterprises in Sweden, but less than 50 in Norway.36 Clearly, this must have made it easier for employers in Sweden to set the terms of the public debate, and it may also have made it less interesting to use advice from Kenning, since they had already developed unilateral links to other and more academically oriented research groups and consultants.

23The labour movements in the Nordic countries were skeptical of codetermination at the top level of the firm. They did not want to ‘sit on both sides of the table’, but rather make use of the power given them from above, through the social democratic governments, and below, by movements for work reform on the shopfloor. The inspiration for the democracy at work movement in Sweden came from the socio-technical experiments of semi-autonomous work groups, first in England and then in Norway. Researchers were active in the democracy at work experiments in both countries, but it seems to have been more important for researchers in Norway to deal with both unions and employers at the same time. It was the combination of their efforts to create joint programmes for industrial development and the political activism of unions that led to the introduction of the work environment acts. This legislation sought to increase worker influence over technological development and workplace affairs. The movement for workplace democracy was successful in changing the focus from the top level of the firm to the division of labour between managers and workers at the lower level of the firm. It was always Kenning’s strategy to begin at the top, however, and at this level he did not have to deal with worker representatives or unions, since there was a tendency in such groups to focus mainly on shopfloor affairs, and not the management affairs that Kenning directed his attention to.

  • 37 F. Sejersted, Hoyres Historie 3: Opposisjon og Posisjon, Oslo, J.W Cappelens Forlag, 1984; SNS/Nor (...)
  • 38 Stenlas 2001: 265-289.

24Thirdly, ‘inner circles’ of businessmen seeking to influence politics were set up in both countries before and during the Second World War. There was more secrecy around the activities of such business associations in Norway, however. The revelation, in 1948, that the conservative and liberal parties were supported by secret fonds collected among businessmen created a major setback for those who wanted to bolster the role of business in the public mind. It was not seen as legitimate for conservatives in Norway to be part of such activities, and those interested in a political career had to disassociate themselves from the kind of political activism on the behalf of business that was carried out by Libertas and later SNS Norway and Elingaard.37 Similar revelations about secret funds to support political parties and newspapers did not create a similar setback in Sweden, but caused instead the ‘inner circles’ to develop opinion molding and research and training organizations.38 These organizations, exemplified by SNS, were able to establish more legitimacy in the public sphere than similar organizations in Norway. The stronger position of business in Sweden became apparent when the Swedish Employers’ Confederation (SAF) said ‘goodbye to corporatism’ in 1991 by withdrawing their representatives from all the central public committees with decision-making power. The employer’s confederation in Norway discussed a similar move, but in the end nothing happened. One may infer from this that Swedish employers though that they had more to gain from participating in an open public debate than by continuing to cultivate established corporatist relationships. The contrast may also be explained by the longer tradition for business interests in Sweden to rely on the stakeholder model, and the fact that they had established separate institutions, which allowed them to gain a stronger position in research and public opinion. The business interests in Norway actually experienced many setbacks in terms of public opinion in the 1980s, at the same time as the Swedish employers were on the offensive.

  • 39 F.W Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, New York, W.W Norton, 1911/1967.
  • 40 F.W Taylor, Rationall arbetsdeling: Management, Stockholm, Ort/Förlag, 1913/1920.
  • 41 T. Halvorsen, “Taylorismen i Norge: ideologi og profesjonaliseringsstrategi. Arbeidsnotat nr. 86”, (...)

25Fourthly, Swedish employers had been importing American models of management for a longer rime, whereas Norwegian employers had looked more to their neighboring countries. Indicative of this is the fact that Taylor’s Scientific Management39 was translated into Swedish in 1913,40 whereas the first Norwegian translation is scheduled to appear in 2002. One may thus suggest the hypothesis that Norway lacked the institutional preconditions and also the networks for importing the social responsibility ideology into management. The institutional groundwork for the implementation of management techniques of the kind represented by George Kenning had been laid in Sweden, but there was no need for them since Swedish industrialists had been rather active in importing other kinds of scientific management techniques before and after the Second World War. Specific scientific management techniques had been made use of, whereas such techniques did not get much footing in Norway until the post-war period.41 Production engineering and export industries were stronger in Sweden, and there may have been more of a strategic fit between the existing social relationships within the firm and the social responsibility ideology. Norway, on the other hand, lacked such a structural fit, and this left room for Kenningism to be implemented instead of the stakeholder model or the social responsibility ideology.

conclusion

  • 42 R. Bendix, Work and Authority in Industry, Berkeley, UC Press, 1956/1974; H. Mintzberg, The Nature (...)
  • 43 Bendix 1956/1974:441.
  • 44 This was said in a situation where the two governments were involved in a heated debate about the (...)

26In his classical study Work and Authority, Reinhard Bendix found that management ideologies were much more developed in the Anglo-Saxon world than in Russia and East Germany. These latter countries had made a lot use of techniques developed from Taylorism, but there was no strong sense of managerial ideologies of the American kind. Bendix showed that the most important aspect when making an attempt to study the nature of management does not lie in the managerial work itself, ‘what managers actually do’, as claimed by Mintzberg, but in how managers understand their own role in society and what kind of patterns of authority are created as they deal with the same kind of problems. The industrial owners and managers in the USA and Great Britain developed a rather autonomous position, and it was in order to defend this position that they developed the philosophy of ‘general management’ and a concern for the social responsibilities of business.42 In Russia and East Germany, by contrast, there was no possibility to develop a similar management ideology since the industrial managers were controlled from above and had to legitimate their actions by referring to the state and the Party. The consequence of this was that “whereas the workers in England and the USA were invited to become their own masters, if they did not wish to obey ; in Russia they were told that their subordination was less onerous than it seemed, because their own superiors were also servants of the almighty Tsar”.43 It is to take the matter too far, of course, to make a direct analogy from the Swedish to the Anglo-Saxon case, and say that Norway is like Russia (although not long ago the Swedish Minister of Industry claimed that Norway was the last Soviet state).44 However, some of the same dynamics observed by Bendix may also perhaps be found in these two cases. The industrial bourgeoisie clearly had established a stronger position in Sweden than in Norway after the Second World War, and it was partly for this reason that they were able to establish stronger links with social research, as indicated by the establishment of SNS, and adopt the social responsibility ideology.

27The new generation of managers that imported the social responsibility ideology from the United States to Sweden were able develop and legitimize a third position between the interest-based strategies of industrialists and the labour movement. This happened in the wake of a heated debate about industrial planning. A similar opportunity structure did not apparently exist in Norway, and there was thus not a group of managers who could respond in a similar way. Clearly, there was a growth in company size in Norway from the 1950s, and this generated a need for knowledge on how to set up a hierarchy. Kenningism was a response to this need. The Swedish firms had experienced such growth earlier, and had more competence on such issues. The public debate in Norway centered on democratization on the shopfloor and the humanization of work. This difference in focus may relate to the various ‘settlements’ following in the wake of the two big debates about the role of ownership and industry in society (Norway 1947-1953, Sweden 1944-1948).

28Norwegian industrialists continued to rely more on informal ‘inner circles’ surrounded by secrecy, and specific techniques and concepts like Kenningism. They were not able to develop any permanent institutions and direct alliances with researchers and academics as a consequence of their resistance to industrial planning. Except in the case of Kenningism, most major initiatives and research projects in the area of management and organization were joint projects between employers and unions, or between unions and researchers. The state was also involved in such matters. The SNS was an example of a different kind of alliance in Sweden, and it is also became a force in public debate. A similar force is difficult to locate on the Norwegian scene.

  • 45 M. Josephson, The Robber Barons. The great American Capitallists 1861-1902, New York Harcourt, 193 (...)

29Strength is of course a relative term. In general it is likely that where the firms are larger, and industry stronger, the industrial bourgeoisie will have more room for action, and more power to influence problem formulation. It may not be the case that there is a one-to-one relationship between strength of business interests in a society and their ability to acquire a hegemonic position in public debate, however. In economic and material terms, Swedish business interests may have been just as strong in the 1970s, when they were more on the defensive, as in the 1980s, when they took the offensive. It is, indeed, possible that a strong bourgeoisie may by its own actions undermine its position in society, as exemplified by the backlash against the American robber barons a century ago.45 Similarly, it may be the case that a ‘good’ public relations strategy may improve the standing of a weak bourgeoisie. It is from such a perspective that the question may be raised as to whether the Norwegian bourgeoisie may have had a stronger public position if they had been better at copying the Swedish way, instead of relying on the advice provided by American consultants like George Kenning.

  • 46 Tengblad 2001.

30Academic researchers have contributed to all the major movements for corporate governance in Sweden.46 Clearly there was also a strong academic interest taken in the democratization at work-movement in Norway, but there is no such influence in the case of Kenningism. Kenningism has been a movement among consultants, a business journalist (Schjander) and central industrialists like Karl Glad and Gerhard Heiberg. The linkages between national management intellectuals and industrialists have been much more one-sided and weaker than in the case of Sweden.

  • 47 J. Lauglo, “Populism and education in Norway”, in A. Tjeldvold (ed.), Education and the Scandinavi (...)
  • 48 H. Byrkjeflot, “Management Education and Selection of top Managers in Europe and the United States (...)

31Norway is in many ways a much more populist country than Sweden. Compared to social democratic parties in Sweden and other the main Western European countries, the Norwegian Labour Party has been more of an advocate of the common man and the common school, quite skeptical of ‘academic’ secondary education, and more attuned to rural interests.47 Similarly, the effect of populism and the skepticism about academics and university graduates seem to have been felt on the management side. International surveys show that the educational level of Norwegian top managers, particularly those recruited from the business class, was exceptionally low, even though the general level of education in the population and in the managerial class was above average.48 The admiration for Kenning may partly be due to his background as a self-made man and ex-union leader. This may have helped him gain respect among a new generation of Norwegian industrialists, who saw themselves in similar terms, and wanted to part company with the traditional class of ship-owners and managers of family firms.

***

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Notes

1 C. Myrvang, “West of Eden – Norwegian industry in the shadow of Swedish grandeur 1914 to 1939”, in H. Byrkjeflot, S. Myklebust, C. Myrvang, and F. Sejersted (eds.), The Democratic Challange to Capitalism. Management and Democracy in the Nordic Countries, Bergen, Fagbokforlaget, 2001 p. 151-178.

2 C. Maier, “Society as Factory – Between Taylorism and Technocracy”, in C. S. Maier, In Search of Stability, Cambridge, MA, Cambridge University Press, 1987, p. 19-69 and p.53.

3 Ibid. p. 64.

4 A. Carew, Labour Under the Marshall Plan, Detroit, MI, Wayne State University Press, 1987.

5 L. Lewin, Planhushållningsdebatten, Stockholm, Almquist & Wiksell, 1967; K. Ullenhag, I takt med tiden: SNS åren 1948-1998, Stockholm, SNS Förlag, 1998.

6 Lewin 1967: 375.

7 K. Ullenhag, Itakt med tiden: SNS åren 1948-1998, Stockholm, SNS Förlag, 1998; N. Stenlås, “The rise of Big Business Political Activism in Scandinavia 1900-1950”, in H. Byrkjeflot, S. Myklebust, C. Myrvang, and F. Sejersted (eds.), The Democratic Challenge to Capitalism. Management and Democracy in the Nordic Conntries, Bergen, Fagbokforlaget, 2001, p. 265-289.

8 E. Rhenman, Företagsdemokrati och företagsorganisation, Stockholm, Norstedts, 1964; L. Lidén, Makten över foretagen, Stockholm, SNS, 1966.

9 S. Tengblad, “Corporate governance from a social movement perspective: The case of Sweden”, paper presented at the 16th Nordic conference on Business Studies, August 16th_ 18th, Uppsala, 2001.

10 N. Schjander, Hvis jeg bare hadde en bedre sjef. George Kenning om ledelse, Oslo, Hjemmets bokforlag, 1987/1995; N. Schjander, If I only had a better boss. George Kenning on leadership. Oslo, Damm, 1988.

11 NPI – Norsk Produktivitetsinstitutt, Personalorganisasjon, personalutvikling og opplœring, Oslo, NPI, 1959. L. Karlsson, “Samspelet i en organisation och prinsiper för ledarskap”, 1968, En rapport från ett administrativt project i LKAB, Direktionsavdelingen Administration, Lkab, Stockholm; Schjander 1987, 1988.

12 Karlsson 1968: 32-33.

13 NPI 1959.

14 J. Nyhamar, Nye utfordringer. Arbeiderbevegelsens Historie i Norge bind 6, Oslo, Tiden Norsk Forlag, 1990.

15 Utnes 1993.

16 Väckans Affärer, 14 March 1968.

17 SMEC, “Planning for Productivity A Basic Mission Analysis”, Oslo, Special Mission to Norway for Economic Cooperation, 1952.

18 S. Riksåsen, Libertas 1947-1953, Oslo, Elingaard, 1973.

19 F. Sejersted, “Capitalism and Democracy – a Comparison between Norway and Sweden”, in H. Byrkjeflot, S. Myklebust, C. Myrvang, and F. Sejersted (eds.), The Democratic Challenge to Capitalism. Management and Democracy in the Nordic Countries, Bergen, Fagbokforlaget, 2001, p. 87-119.

20 N. Naguib, Med Kall til Ledelse, mannlig lederkultur i Norge, Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, 1996; T. Sørhaug, Om ledelse- makt og tillit i moderne organisering, Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, 1996.

21 Karlsson 1968.

22 Dagbladet, 1 January 1970.

23 D. Ellingsen, “På tide å ta farvel med Kenning”, Økonomisk Rapport, 7, 1989, p. 62-64; R. Kalleberg, “Kenning-tradisjonen i norsk ledelse”, Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 3, 1991, p.218-p.218-244; P. Grøholt, Ledelse og Ansvar, Oslo, Bedriftsøkonomenes Forlag, 1993.

24 G. Utnes, “Forskeres Kenning-kritikk”, Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 3, 1992, p. 307-315; Dagens Nœringsliv, 29 April 1993.

25 Schjander 1987.

26 Schjander 1987.

27 Schjander 1988.

28 H. Byrkjeflot, “Fra ledelse til management”, in H. Byrkjeflot (ed.) Fra Styring til Ledelse, Bergen, Fagbokforlaget, 1997, p. 419-464

29 R.P. Amdam and R. Kvålshaug, “Etablering og utvikling av lederkulturer: Norsk kenningisme”, Nordiske organisasjonsstudier; 2 (1), 2000, p. 86-106.

30 Karlsson 1968.

31 S. Sevje, “En uheldig hund i keglespill. Studieselskapet for norsk industri”, unpublished hovedfagsoppgave, Universitetet i Oslo, 1977; Sejersted 2001: 87-119.

32 SNS/Norge, “Jubileumsskrift ved 20-årsdagen for Studieselskapet Samfunn og Næringsliv”, Oslo, 1976.

33 Sejersted 2001: 87-119.

34 Lewin 1967; F. Sejersted, “Sosialdemokratiet finner sin form. Kampen om fullmaktslovene etter 1945”, in F. Sejersted (ed.), Demokratisk kapitalisme, Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, 1993.

35 Lewin 1967: 334.

36 B. Gustavsen, “Industrial democracy”, in E. Allardt et al. (eds.), Nordic Democracy Copenhagen, Det Danske Selskab, 1981.

37 F. Sejersted, Hoyres Historie 3: Opposisjon og Posisjon, Oslo, J.W Cappelens Forlag, 1984; SNS/Norge 1976.

38 Stenlas 2001: 265-289.

39 F.W Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, New York, W.W Norton, 1911/1967.

40 F.W Taylor, Rationall arbetsdeling: Management, Stockholm, Ort/Förlag, 1913/1920.

41 T. Halvorsen, “Taylorismen i Norge: ideologi og profesjonaliseringsstrategi. Arbeidsnotat nr. 86”, Oslo, TMV-senteret, Universitetet i Oslo, 1994; Myrvang 200: 151-178.

42 R. Bendix, Work and Authority in Industry, Berkeley, UC Press, 1956/1974; H. Mintzberg, The Nature of Managerial Work, New York, Harper Collins Publishers, 1973; H.F. Merrill, The Responsibilities of Business Leadership, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1948

43 Bendix 1956/1974:441.

44 This was said in a situation where the two governments were involved in a heated debate about the reasons for the failure of the Telia-Telenor merger in 1999. See Aftenposten, 9 September 1999.

45 M. Josephson, The Robber Barons. The great American Capitallists 1861-1902, New York Harcourt, 1934.

46 Tengblad 2001.

47 J. Lauglo, “Populism and education in Norway”, in A. Tjeldvold (ed.), Education and the Scandinavian welfare State in the year 2000: equality, policy and reform, New York, Garland Publishers 1998.

48 H. Byrkjeflot, “Management Education and Selection of top Managers in Europe and the United States”, 2001, LOS-senter rapport R0103 based on the CEMP report to the European Union.

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