Companies are made up of people primarily rather than machines. A comment which may seem banal but which in actual fact implies something very specific: full knowledge of accounting and management methods is not enough for a real understanding of a company. It takes much more. Humanities and social sciences, grouped together under a single umbrella, are also required. History, psychology, anthropology and sociology, just to give a few examples. All these disciplines have something to contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms whereby companies are born, grow, live and, very often in certain circumstances, die.
This moreover is inevitable given that mankind, in every period of history, has made “production” a fundamental part of human life. Corporate culture, in other words, is true culture and therefore can also been seen with the tools of those who actually study culture in the field.
Those rare occasions when it is possible to grasp a collective understanding of how much social sciences can tell us about companies are therefore important.
This is the case with edition 3 (1) spring 2014 of the Journal of Business Anthropology, a sort of special edition containing a set of history and anthropology treatises on the theme of business.
Opinions: Business History and Anthropology is a sort of container of snapshots capturing a moment in complex corporate or business life from an unusual standpoint. Consideration is therefore taken of corporate practices, the changes in business with respect to markets and production technologies and the historical and anthropological interpretation of the legal aspects of corporate management. All this in order to succeed in defining how anthropology and history give a better understanding of the working of modern-day companies and, above all, the nature of human behaviour inside them, with tools other than the classic balance sheets but instead those, equally classic yet decidedly unusual for modern companies, of research in the field of anthropology. The study of a corporate set-up from the legal and anthropological viewpoint is interesting, as also the indications which emerge from application of the categories of analysis of a company taken from social sciences and which are normally applied to other situations and not production.
The authors are some of the most notable exponents of anthropology and history from US and European research centres: from Harvard to the Johns Hopkins University, the École Polytechnique in Paris to the Copenhagen Business School and many others.
The Journal of Business Anthropology thus reaches an important objective: in just over 70 pages it sums up a sort of compendium in stages, a travel guide for discovering business people and producers.
Opinions: Business History and Anthropology
Journal of Business Anthropology, 3(1), Spring 2014