'Dead selves': the birth of the modern career

Alan McKinlay

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    106 Citations (Scopus)


    The rise of the modern career based on merit and open competition rather than connections or seniority was associated with the slow emergence of the managerial bureaucracy. These processes unfolded in Scottish banking in the 20 years before 1914. Inspection of local adherence to centrally specified procedures was critical to both processes. Inspectors developed and maintained central files that charted the individual's technical competence and conformity to the bank's cultural expectations. The staff ledgers provided a continuous record of salary, promotion, and punishment over an individual's entire career. Although there was no formal categorization or quantification of performance or attitude, the staff ledgers did begin to open up the individual to scrutiny by the centre. For the bank, the career was a highly efficient form of supervision that relied heavily upon individual's self-regulation. For the individual, conformity resulted in promotion and career progression. The career was not simply an economic mechanism but also a moral project without end of hope of completion.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)595-614
    Number of pages20
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


    • banking
    • bureaucracy
    • Foucault
    • power


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