Title page for ETD etd-0405103-153006

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Rowan, Jeremy David
URN etd-0405103-153006
Title Imagining Corporate Culture: The Industrial Paternalism of William Hesketh Lever at Port Sunlight, 1888-1925
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Meredith Veldman Committee Chair
Charles Royster Committee Member
Maribel Dietz Committee Member
Victor Stater Committee Member
Arnulfo Ramirez Dean's Representative
  • paternalism
  • corporate culture
  • William Lever
  • Port Sunlight
Date of Defense 2003-03-11
Availability unrestricted
At Lever Brothers soap company in Port Sunlight, U.K., William Lever, between 1888-1925, instituted employee benefits that preceded the welfare state. Yet, in addition to providing tangible benefits for the employees (including free medical care, pensions, an employee profit-sharing scheme), Lever also created a strong corporate identity for his employees by cultivating a strong company and personal image, one constructed in response to national discourses surrounding industrialization, empire, national identity, and economic decline. Lever offered his company as a solution to national concerns and thus posited his workers as participants in patriotic efforts and empire-building. He forged an effective company culture by constructing a positive image of himself, his company, and his factory town.

Lever constructed and defended this image through various channels. In public addresses, he carefully constructed his own ethos. In Port Sunlight, architecture was a rhetorical method for constructing and consolidating a company image that looked to an idealized past. Media events, Lever's art collection, advertisements, and company, local, and national publications further promoted the company culture and the employees' roles in it. This carefully constructed image was an important element in the development of an overall corporate culture that helped thrust Lever Brothers (later Unilever) into multinational status. This

dissertation shows that analysis of paternalist companies such as

Lever Brothers must be conducted through a wide lens to account for the influence of cultural factors on the company's success as well as to recognize the role of such factors in the successful construction of company identity.

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