Future Directions from the Past - Management and Accounting Discourse in Historical Perspective

23 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2010

See all articles by Luca Zan

Luca Zan

University of Bologna - Department of Management

Date Written: 2005


This paper reflects on the lack of focus on history characterizing the strategic management field. Reasons and consequences of such a peculiar situation need to be pointed out in order to develop a better history-grounded research approach inside the field.

In terms of (the missing) history of thought, a fear of history seems to characterize the field, for a more aware historical understanding of strategic management and practices is likely to question not only notions and concepts, but the very perception of the field as a practically oriented discipline. A lack of historical reflection is usually preferred, wherein strategic management seems to come out of the blue, ignoring its inner evolution over time, and the relationships with previous bodies of knowledge in the business realm, such as for instance administrative sciences and accounting.

In terms of the history of practice the situation is - if possible - even worse, with an obscure understanding of contexts and features of managerial practices in the past. Archival research is called for here, drawing on two research projects on pre-industrial revolution context (the Spanish Royal Tobacco Factory in the XVIII century, and the Venice Arsenal in the turn of the XVI century), in order to examine how prior management practices can influence and inform our present understanding of the discipline of strategic management. A less simplistic view of managing practices in the past emerges, which challenges the commonly held cycle of innovation and discontinuity perpetually alleged in the strategic management field to legitimize its own existence as a research area.

While strategic management tools show a potential contribution to historical understanding in this archival research, a more historically aware understanding of the evolution of the field is thus intended as a way to falsify strategic management theory.

Suggested Citation

Zan, Luca, Future Directions from the Past - Management and Accounting Discourse in Historical Perspective (2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1591932 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1591932

Luca Zan (Contact Author)

University of Bologna - Department of Management ( email )

Via Capo di Lucca 34
Bologna, 40126

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