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Doing money: The social construction of money in management theory and organizational practice

Sarah Brand Stookey, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation reflects on the construction of money as a way of informing management theory and, hopefully, will motivate scholars to render management theory and its associated practices more transparent and coherent. Management theory is less a discipline than an amalgam of social scientific insights about managerial (and more broadly, organizational) activities. In constructing this body of theory, the various contributors have been relatively unreflective about the sources of their insight. Did it derive from an economic approach, and if so, from which tradition; or did it derive from one of the other social sciences? As a result, contemporary management theory often mixes incomplete or incompatible presumptions. The dissertation is intended to disentangle these combinations by using the construct of "money," a varying concept depending on which of the social science disciplines one draws on. The dissertation has three main components: First, I argue that money is deeply social and complicated, rich with meanings and implications documented in sociology, anthropology, psychology and, especially, economics. I propose that these insights provide the basis for a multi-dimensional framework describing money as a social construction. I believe the money framework, because of money's centrality in organizational life, can facilitate more useful organizational analysis and focus attention on important social implications of money and organizations. Second, I use the money framework to describe the version of money relied on in most management theory through close textual analysis of a compensation textbook, highlighting management theory's reliance on the assumptions of neoclassical economics. As part of the analysis, I draw on scholarly accounts of compensation from sociology, anthropology, and psychology, and examine the ways in which tacit reliance on neoclassical economic presumptions undercuts management theory's aspirations to accommodate the broadly social realms of organizational activity. Third, I describe how the money framework can be used to identify the assumptions and biases of other management constructs such as strategy and how it can be used empirically to describe the organizational construction of money. By providing a framework for analyzing the common element of money, the dissertation lays a foundation for new interpretations of management theory and organizations.

Subject Area

Management|Labor relations|Economic theory

Recommended Citation

Stookey, Sarah Brand, "Doing money: The social construction of money in management theory and organizational practice" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3215753.