what you can learn from google’s book archive
Google’s latest toy allows you to search for words or phrases in its vast library of books. It will then graph the trend of the occurrences of those words over time. It’s super fun.
I created this graph searching for the following terms: organizational theory, management theory, and administrative science. As you can see, until the late 1950s “administrative science” was the most common term. “Management theory” or “organizational theory” didn’t even register until the 1940s. Around the mid-50s these latter two began to rise at roughly the same rate, surpassing “administrative science” in the late 1950s. It’s also striking that both seem to be declining now.
One reason for their decline may be the rapid rise of strategic management. If you add the term, “strategic management,” to the graph you get a really striking story. Strategic management didn’t seem to exist until the mid-70’s, but it experienced a rapid surge in popularity, quickly taking over management and organizational theory. It now dwarfs the other three in popularity. The frequency of “strategic management” is roughly twice that of “management theory,” the next most popular term.
This isn’t a very formal test, but the data from Google books seems to confirm the intuition that strategic management as a subfield of management theory has become a dominant way of thinking about organizations (although there is plenty of room for heterogeneity, like you see on orgtheory.net). For more on this topic, see this post about strategic management as a social movement.