The interdisciplinary career of a popular construct used in management: Empowerment in the late twentieth century
Bartunek, J., & Spreitzer, G.M. (2006). The interdisciplinary career of a popular construct used in management: Empowerment in the late twentieth century. Journal of Management Inquiry, 15(3), 255-273.
In this article, the authors trace how meanings of the construct empowerment evolved between 1966 and 2000 across six disciplines: religion, psychology, sociology, education, social work, and management. Meanings of empowerment expanded considerably during this time period, as the construct waxed, waned, and then waxed again in popularity. Empowerment was introduced in religion in the 1960s and expanded by sociology in the early 1970s, and in these disciplines it focused primarily on sharing real power. As empowerment was introduced into education, psychology and social work in the next several years, it added a focus on fostering human welfare. Its introduction in management led to a new emphasis on fostering productivity, something very different from the original use of the term. The authors’ findings have important implications for the understanding of the evolution of constructs and issues associated with their meanings in management scholarship.