Mary P. Follett


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Creating Democracy, Transforming Management

Joan C. Tonn

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Mary P. Follett (1868–1933) brought new dimensions to the theory and practice of management and was one of America’s preeminent thinkers about democracy and social organization. The ideas Follett developed in the early twentieth century continue even today to challenge thinking about business and civic concerns. This book, the first biography of Follett, illuminates the life of this intriguing woman and reveals how she developed her farsighted theories about the organization of human relations.

Out of twenty years of civic work in Boston’s immigrant neighborhoods, Follett developed ideas about the group basis of democracy and the foundations of social interaction that placed her among leading progressive intellectuals. Later in her career, she delivered influential lectures on business management that form the basis of our contemporary discourse about collaborative leadership, worker empowerment, self-managed teams, conflict resolution, the value of inclusivity and diversity, and corporate social responsibility.

Joan C. Tonn is an organizational psychologist and associate professor in the College of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

“[An] excellent biography. . . . Tonn has produced a sympathetic, richly detailed, meticulously referenced biography.”—Andrew Vinchur, Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences

"For the first time we have a meticulously researched biography of Mary Follett, a brilliant and original organizational thinker. Here, in all her complexity, is the woman who, among her many political and civic achievements, established the basis for contemporary negotiation theory and feminist thinking about power with her concepts of ‘integrated (win-win) solutions’ and ‘power with’ in contrast to ‘power over’."—Jane Mansbridge, Harvard University

"Social worker and theorist of democratic cooperation in public life and business management, Mary Follett generated ideas that remain compelling today. Tonn’s book deftly shows us how Follett’s writings evolved from her life."—Kathryn Kish Sklar, author of Florence Kelley and the Nation’s Work

“If you are among those who admire the work of Mary Follett, you are in for a treat. After over twenty years of research, Joan Tonn’s biography of Follett has been published and is recommended reading. . . . Through Tonn’s biography we can see the continuing relevance of Mary Follett’s ideas even three score and ten years after her death.”—Daniel A. Wren, Historically Speaking

"[Tonn] does a magnificent job of placing Follett within her time and fills in a great many gaps in her life story."—Camilla Stivers, Public Administration Review
ISBN: 9780300096217
Publication Date: April 10, 2003
640 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.