Elaborations, Revisions, Dissents: Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.’s., The Visible Hand after Twenty Years

John, Richard R.

Two decades have passed since the publication of 'The Visible Hand,' Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.'s, magisterial account of the rise of the modern business enterprise in the United States. Although Chandler's pathbreaking work has been widely hailed as a landmark in business history, only rarely has anyone considered systematically its influence on the large body of historical scholarship on related topics. This essay is intended to help fill this gap. It is divided into two sections. The first section reviews Chandler's argument, touches on the relationship of Chandler's oeuvre to his personal background, and locates 'The Visible Hand' in the context of American historical writing. The second considers how three groups of historians have responded to Chandler's ideas. These groups consist of champions who creatively elaborated on Chandler's intellectual agenda; critics who probed anomalies between Chandler's argument and their own research; and skeptics who rejected Chandler's analysis outright.


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Business History Review
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August 1, 2018