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The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  167 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
The role of large-scale business enterprise big business and its managers during the formative years of modern capitalism (from the 1850s until the 1920s) is delineated in this pathmarking book. Alfred Chandler, Jr., the distinguished business historian, sets forth the reasons for the dominance of big business in American transportation, communications, and the central sec ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published January 1st 1977 by Belknap Press
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Sep 14, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Hyacinthe Rigaud
At first glance (the cover, really) I thought this was going to be a book about how markets are imperfect. The invisible hand is a myth; markets really work by manipulation, or government intervention, or whatnot. It's actually nothing like that. It's a straightforward business history (though Chandler was saying something new in 1977, that had not been written about before) explaining the connection between large, modern business enterprises and their managerial structure (layers of middle and ...more
Aug 19, 2016 Marks54 rated it really liked it
*I went back to check my original review for this and ended up deleting the record. How smart is that? I will provide a rewrite/revision here.

This book is one of the five most influential books ever on the history of big business in the US, if not the most influential single book. I cannot recall why I gave it four stars rather than five, but that is OK. This book was literally the first serious book of business history I ever read and I just stumbled onto it during a lunch break in Washington,
Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 Mark Bowles rated it it was amazing
A. Synopsis: The purpose of this book is to “examine the changing processes of production and distribution in the United States and the ways in which they have been managed. (1)” The “visible hand of management replaced the invisible hand of market forces where and when new technology and expanded markets permitted a historically unprecedented high volume and speed of materials through the processes of production and distribution (14).” What is the modern business enterprise? It contains many di ...more
Frank Stein
Aug 19, 2016 Frank Stein rated it really liked it
This book is the rare winner of both a Pulitzer and a Bancroft, the latter the prize for best academic history book. Although it doesn't quite reach a general audience, it does try to describe to the laymen how America became an economy run by large, hierarchically organized corporations controlled by layers of management, as opposed to a free-wheeling market of small enterprises. At times, this descends into endless analysis of org-charts, and in its less-inspiring moments can be described as t ...more
Czarny Pies
Nov 06, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Economic history students.
Recommended to Czarny by: Prof. Deszo Horvarth
Shelves: american-history
The Visible Hand by Alfred Chandler and the New Industrial State by John Kenneth Galbraith both published int he 1970s both argued that the large corporations of America had succeeded in taming the market for the greater good of the people. Demand could be managed and technological innovation could be implemented in our society on a orderly basis. Instead of disorderly entrepreneurs who managed on impulse and intuition, America's economic life was now being run by managerial bureaucracies.

Of th
Excerpted as "The Coming of Mass Production and Modern Management" in Gary Kornblith, ed., The Industrial Revolution in America (1998)[return][return]Chandler describes the process through which mass production necessitated the emergence of bureaucratic forms of management and the emergence of a professional managerial class. For Chandler, modern management "contains many distinct operating units and it is managed by a hierarchy of salaried executives." (p. 141)[return][return]In the metal-makin ...more
David Bates
May 23, 2013 David Bates rated it really liked it
The Visible Hand, published by Alfred D. Chandler Jr. in 1977 charts the rise of large conglomerated business enterprise in the United States in the Gilded Age. The spreading railways and telegraphs that bound the national market together seeded a transformation of the economic landscape. The theme of the work is the disappearance of the small family companies which used to carry out the work of production and distribution in the American economy. Small mining operations which sold ore to a smal ...more
Aug 26, 2007 Cat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: americanhistory
Let's get one thing straight. I don't care who you are or what you're doing with your life- but if you are ignorant about the world of the corporation because of some misguided idea that corporations are "bad" or "evil" you are an idiot and i don't have time for you. Corporations run the whole world. They are more powerful then governments and their decisions affect us all.

The above paragraph is simple statement of fact. Of course, the problem with learning about business is that they've built u
Ron Davison
Jan 13, 2011 Ron Davison rated it it was amazing
Perhaps too detailed for many readers, this book is nonetheless a fabulous read simply because it explains so clearly and persuasively Chandler's claim that after the railroad, from the late 1800s through the early 1900s, the American economy transformed from one defined by Adam Smith's invisible hand of perfect competition to the visible hand of management. A hugely important shift that gets too little attention. This is, quite rightfully, an oft-cited book that help to define business history.
Paul J
Apr 12, 2015 Paul J rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It's provides a good history of the development of American corporate industrial history. Staring with how business in America in the early 1800's not being much different than the 1500's. The book takes you through the transportation, communication, manufacturing and distribution revolution by case histories of the industries ( railroads, telegraph, energy, mechanical equipment,etc )that were in the forefront of the development of the modern corporation.
May 09, 2014 Gabriel rated it really liked it
This was a dry and difficult read that was still rewarding. Big business is an import and and omnipresent institution in American life and this is clear and objective study of its roots. This sort of stuff really is required knowledge to be a citizen in America, I think, in order to understand the gulf that exists between the early days of the republic and today.
Oct 22, 2007 Jason rated it really liked it
Ever wonder where these huge incorporations got their start. Ever wonder where management decided to create middle management. I had no idea that the railroads where that effective in creating unversal management themes that could be carried over too other businesses even in different industries. A basic history of American business.
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 Sean Chick rated it it was ok
Surprisingly well written and argued, this is a great counter-point to many myths about corporations in the Gilded Age. However it is also impersonal. Their are no people in this story, and the fact is not everything about the corporation is 'rational.' Just ask the most potent symbol of the Gilded Age: the industrial worker.
Dec 18, 2010 Letitia rated it really liked it
While wordy and somewhat narrowly focused, Chandler really blows open the evolution of the American mega-corporation and the managerial revolution that occurred with the rise of railroad, big business and industry. A worthwhile read to those attempting to understand the origins and structure of the American corporation.
Oct 31, 2007 Jim rated it liked it
a well-written, although somewhat dry history of american business through the 19th century focusing on the emergence of modern corporate hierarchical structures. suggests an interesting set of theoretic virtues for such structures and offers a detailed defense of those virtues.
Billy Forde
May 29, 2013 Billy Forde rated it really liked it
Brilliant scholarship and surprisingly readable.... I still pick it up from time to time just to flick through, which can't be said of most of my university texts.

Just a fascinating book.
John Hibbs
Good book that helped me to understand the need, initiation and growth of managerial capitalism.
Jan 07, 2008 Alan rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
A great book about US business history. Skip the Moved My Cheese stuff and try this.
Dec 11, 2008 Vassi rated it really liked it
A good "history" book of how modern day corporations came to be.
Apr 30, 2010 Joshua rated it really liked it
Awesome if you're into supply chains and managerial capitalism.
Trent Rock
Oct 25, 2009 Trent Rock rated it really liked it
This is a good book if you are into economic history
John Roberts
Jul 21, 2009 John Roberts is currently reading it
really hoping I can finish this. chances...
Maurice Halton
Feb 23, 2013 Maurice Halton rated it liked it
Just another American's slanted views.
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Alfred DuPont Chandler, Jr. (September 15, 1918 – May 9, 2007) was a professor of business history at Harvard Business School and Johns Hopkins University, who wrote extensively about the scale and the management structures of modern corporations. His works redefined business and economic history of industrialization.

Chandler has been called "the Herodotus of business history."
More about Alfred D. Chandler Jr....

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