Abstract: On the Origins, Nature, and Function of Internal Careers: A Case Study of Saint-Gobain Accounting Clerks in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Mathieu Floquet and Pierre Labardin


This article aims to understand more about the origins of internal careers through a case study of accounting personnel at the French company Saint-Gobain at the turn of the twentieth century. The first section offers a review of various bodies of research that will allow us to define the notion of a career and explain its origins. Using this information, we outline our reasons for studying the careers of accounting clerks at Saint-Gobain. Drawing on quantitative data taken from staff registers, we reveal the emergence of an internal career practice marked by a certain hierarchy between the different positions within the company and access to hierarchically superior jobs through internal promotion. In the absence of regulation, this approach to internal career development can be explained by the needs that emerged from increasing bureaucratization and the development of companies. From this perspective, the introduction of career mobility among accounting personnel can be justified by the need for individual management of labor requirements.