Business administration

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The Business Administration ( BWL ; English administration business ; and Business Administration ) is a special science within the economics that deals with the economies in companies ( company concerned).


Like its sister discipline Economics (VWL) ( English economics ), Business Administration is based on the assumption that goods basically just are and accordingly an economic require handling. In contrast to more abstract economics, business administration mostly takes the perspective of individual companies. The objectives are the description , analysis and explanation as well as the concrete support of the decision-making processes in companies, which are usually carried out by several people . The object of knowledge is the company as an economic subject and decision-making unit with its operational functions and all economic processes.


The term “commercial science” or “commercial science” as a forerunner of business studies from the 17th to 18th centuries changed over time. With the establishment of the commercial colleges from 1898 in Leipzig, Aachen and Vienna, the term “commercial business administration” became established. Around 1910, "Private Economics" was adopted into official traffic ". After 1918 the term “business administration” first appeared.

In German-language literature it is sometimes assumed that business administration did not emerge until 1898 with the establishment of the commercial colleges in Leipzig , Aachen , Cologne and Vienna , when the subject was included in the canon of the sciences. But its history, of which only a few testimonies have survived, goes back to around 2000 BC. B.C. in the books of the wisdom of several pharaohs mentioned trading schools of Egypt, in which writing, arithmetic, payment processing, bookkeeping and travel planning were taught.


The first writings on operational management come from antiquity. Xenophon described around 380 BC. In his Oikonomikos the procedure of the grain trade, the increase in the quality of production through the division of labor and the entrepreneurial pursuit of profit . Aristotle described around 350 BC In his textbook on housekeeping in the family and the state , the profit orientation of the economic housekeeping and called for its solvency at all times and a balanced risk distribution . In his work De re rustica , the Roman Columella postulated a controlling using benchmarks in the 1st century , e.g. B. in viticulture a "perpetual annuity" of six percent per year.

middle Ages

In the high Middle Ages, the Syrian Sheikh Abu l'Fadl Gafar ben Ali ad Dimisqi wrote the book about the beauties of trade (1174 AD). In it he explained the origin of money, put together a commodity knowledge , described the costing of goods and justified the formation of prices through supply and demand .

In 1202, the mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci from Pisa published an arithmetic book ( IL Liber Abaci ) with which he introduced the decimal number system, which had come from India via Baghdad to Italy, for the first time in Italian and illustrated it with examples from business life. The publication had a considerable influence on the business community, who were able to better quantify their business with the "Indian figures" and make their decisions more easily comprehensible mathematically.

Scholastic economics began with Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), who, however, did not leave an economic book, but only statements on economic theory that were scattered throughout his works. Thomas affirmed the need for trade on the condition that it served to compensate for the lack of goods between town and country. He also developed the doctrine of the “fair price” ( Latin justum pretium ) for both exchange partners and dealt with the trade margin . For Thomas, all goods have an "immanent, intrinsic value" ( Latin valor intrinsecus ), but not money that only has a "grafted value" ( Latin valor impositus ). It is only a medium of exchange; interest on money is therefore rejected as usury .

The work of Bernardine of Siena (1380–1444) continues, who saw trade justified by the division of labor and understood it as work and the assumption of risk that had to be paid for. For Antonin of Florence (1389–1459) and, more clearly, for Antonio Maria Venusti (around 1560), the price was the result of supply and demand and the trading margin was justified by the costs caused by the trade - at least as long as the dealer's fee included therein has been put to a reasonable purpose, e.g. B. the maintenance of the family and a befitting lifestyle.


During the Renaissance, manuscripts were created in northern Italy in which the know-how of the merchant families was preserved, so that they could look it up in case of doubt or pass it on from father to son. It described the trading business, the most important trade routes, trading centers and local trade practices as well as the methods of market observation based on sea and overland traffic . In addition, “tariffs” were listed in the publications, such as tables with customs duties and fees, but also with conversions of coins, measurements and weights in different regional units in order to relieve the clerks of the complicated arithmetic work. The writings were not published because their content was considered a trade secret.

The most effective of these cryptographic scripts , the Libro di divisamenti di paesi e di misure di mercatantie e d'altre cose bisognevoli di sapere a mercatanti di diverse parti del mondo , was written around 1340 by the Florentine merchant Francesco Balducci Pegolotti , who possibly made it to a 1279 Work by an unknown author from Pisa (the manuscript archived in Siena could be considered : Hec est memoria de tucte le mercantie come carican le navi in ​​Alexandria e il pesi come tornano duna terra addunaltra ).

Pegolotti's writing was effective because it was not kept secret. Soon after its completion, it is said to have served an anonymous man from Venice as a template for a merchant's manual ( Tarifa zoè noticia dy pexi e mexure di luogi e tere che s'adovra marcadantia per el mondo ). In 1442 Giovanni di Bernardo from Uzzano used it as a source for his work Practica della Mercatura , which in turn Giorgio di Lorenzo Chiarini from Florence included in a compendium in 1458 , in which he also reproduced the oldest theoretical account of bookkeeping, the Benedetto Cotrugli in his Factory Della Mercatura et del mercante perfetto leave had. Luca Pacioli probably resorted to this compendium when he wrote his Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita in 1494 , in the appendix of which he dealt with commercial questions and described the double-entry bookkeeping system . The Summa became very well known, so that Pacioli was finally ascribed the invention of the double - which he himself never claimed. It was not until 1766 that Gian-Francesco Pagnini della Ventura published a copy of a copy of Pegolotti's text as Volume 4 of a History of Florentine Finance ( Della Decima e di varie altre gravezze imposte dal Commune di Firence della Moneta e della Mercatura dei Fiorentini fino al secolo XVI ), under the title devised by Bernardo da Uzzano, under which the work has been known ever since: Practica della Mercatura .

In the German- speaking area, the first script comparable to Pegolotti's work was written in 1511. It was also only intended for internal company use and was therefore kept secret. Its author is not known and one can only speculate about the identity of the (presumably southern German) company for which it was written.

It was not until 1558 that Lorenz Meder from Nuremberg broke with secrecy by publishing his commercial notes on the "hidden arts that have never been revealed before" under the title Handel Buch . In Genoa, however, his colleagues accused the merchant Giovanni Domenico Peri (1584–1639) of betraying secrets in 1638 when he published the transcript of his commercial knowledge originally intended for his sons under the title Il Negotiante .

Nowadays the authors of the Renaissance are sometimes accused of not having dealt with the commercial knowledge of their time systematically and only incompletely, of having placed their personal experiences too much in the foreground and of making moral demands on the behavior of entrepreneurs in their personal and business environment that did not Could be the subject of business administration. The extent to which the points of criticism are due to the zeitgeist or even the purpose of the records may remain open. It cannot be denied, however, that the company was viewed as an independent organism, which was initially sought qualitatively, later also quantitatively by means of bookkeeping and calculation, whereby capital and costs became objects of knowledge - even if these terms were not yet clearly defined. In any case, the writings of the Renaissance represent an important basis for the development of action science in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Time of systematic action science

The French Jacques Savary (1622–1690), who in 1675 published the first systematically structured textbook on business administration: Le parfait Négociant, is considered the founder of action science . In it he summarized the entire commercial knowledge of his time, described the trading business and the associated risks and proposed, among other things, to apply the lower of cost or market principle to the accounting valuation of company assets and to provide transitory items for the accrual accounting.

Savary had a great influence on Paul Jacob Marperger (1656–1730) from Nuremberg, who in his main work also described necessary and useful questions about the merchant's business and justified the trading margin. He was the first to establish the subject's scientific claim by calling for public professors mercaturae to be prescribed at universities .

But when Savary's true successor in the German language applies Carl Günther Ludovici (1707-1778), who taught "his attention solely on the collection and systematic building up of the substance" and his work " Opened Academy of merchants or complete Kaufmann lexicon the best collection of his time created ”(Eduard Weber), the appendix of which is a systematic presentation of the action science with the outline of a complete merchant system , which divides the material into the types of trade and auxiliary businesses, the productive factors (goods, people, material resources) and trading activity as buying and selling.

Based on Ludovici, Marperger and Savary, Johann Carl May (1731–1784) published an attempt at a general introduction to the action sciences in 1762 , where he referred to any commercial economy as “action”, i.e. not only trade in goods, but also trade Shipping and even agriculture. The book, which had numerous editions, made the subject particularly popular with practitioners.

In 1785 the non-profit textbook of action science for all classes of business people and action students by Johann Heinrich Jung, called Stilling (1740-1817), was published, which was based on the work of May and Ludovici, but arranged the material in a new way, namely in exchange (Goods customer, money customer, trade customer) and expedition (freight customer, payment customer, account customer).

Action science reached its peak when Johann Michael Leuchs published his book System des Handels in 1804 , which had a total of four editions. He divided the material into merchandise , trading and accounting and began to mathematize the subject by applying the calculation of probability to "price and exchange rate changes, to insurance transactions and processing companies".

Action literature flattened in the 19th century. Instead, the commercial school system developed , which taught the commercial work techniques required in the burgeoning industry, which are now included in the propaedeutics of business administration. The great works of action scientists fell into oblivion. The promising approaches of Leopold Carl Bleibtreu , Jean-Gustave Courcelle-Seneuil, Arnold Lindwurm and Arwed Emminghaus in the middle of the 19th century went without any echo. The operational factor system described by them can be found again 90 years later with Erich Gutenberg.

20th century

It was not until the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries that the discipline was revitalized. However, no reference was made to the findings of the action scientists and their predecessors. You basically started all over again from scratch. The focus initially formed the " preparatory " courses (commercial arithmetic, bookkeeping , office customer and correspondence ) and foreign languages . In addition, there was the operational organization as well as special teachings of trade in goods , banking , transport and insurance . After the turn of the century, the in-depth analysis of business accounting ( cost accounting , balance sheet ) began.

In the 1920s there was a discussion that has gone down in history about the general nature and the central points of reference of business administration, which culminated in 1952 in the actual method dispute in business administration between Konrad Mellerowicz and Erich Gutenberg . The dispute arose over the relationship to the economic system, the position on economics, the scientific methodology, the object of knowledge, the practical relevance, the operational goals and finally over the development of business administration as normative, i.e. ethical and practical norms or, on the other hand, value-free, rational- theoretical science. The subject was listed as commercial management, commercial science, private economics, individual economics, and commercial management before the term business management became established in the 1920s.

According to Fritz Schönpflug (1900–1936) there were the following main currents in business administration:

After the Second World War, Erich Gutenberg completely reorganized business administration by distinguishing between operational functions ( procurement , production , sales , finance ), introducing consumption functions into cost accounting and describing the sales policy instruments ( pricing policy , product design , advertising ) (production factor approach ). In 1951 he introduced the theory of forms of adaptation into production theory . The business administration in the German-speaking area has been systematically developed a. a. by Hans Ulrich , who highlighted your system orientation (system approach), and by Edmund Heinen , who emphasized your decision-making orientation and the possibility of mathematically substantiating operational decisions ( decision-theoretic approach ). Under the influence of American management teachings , Günther Schanz developed the behavioral approach in the second half of the 20th century , which is also known as the leadership or management approach.

In 1960, Günter Wöhe published the introduction to general business administration compendium - now recognized as a standard work - which is regularly updated and continued by Ulrich Döring since 2008 and by Gerrit Brösel since 2016 . In this work, further approaches to business administration are presented.

The Association for the Promotion of the History of Business Administration publishes treatises on the history of business administration and reprints of important commercial science works.


Business administration is divided into two main areas: General Business Administration (ABWL) and Special Business Administration (SBWL), which in turn is divided into functional and institutional business administration.

general business studies

The Business Administration (Business Administration) deals with planning, organizational and computational decisions in companies. It is aligned across functions and industries. General business administration gives an overview of the science of business administration and presents cross-functional and cross-sectoral relationships. The aim is to encourage interdisciplinary thinking and decision-making.

Special business administration

The Special Business Administration (SBWL) - sometimes also called Special Business Administration (BBWL) - focuses on selected questions that are only relevant for certain companies or parts of the company. For a long time, there were only two different approaches to delimiting the areas from one another: Institutional business administration consider all functional areas, but always only for certain types of business, e.g. B. differentiate according to industry , company size and age. Functional business administration, on the other hand, focuses on individual functional areas in companies, regardless of the respective industry. Since 1996 a more differentiated structure has been used, which was suggested by Jürgen Weber . In addition to the previous institutional or functional business economics, there are also factor theories that deal with certain production factors , leadership teachings deal with corporate management either of the entire company or with regard to selected management subsystems. Finally, there are cross-sectional function doctrines, also called meta-leadership doctrines, which consider the coordination of the individual areas.

Modern layout
Older classification

Functional business administration are:

Corporate management with different focus:

  • Market-oriented corporate management or marketing management
  • Value-based corporate management or financial management (see also Shareholder Value )
  • Employee-oriented corporate management or personnel management

Institutional business economics focused on specific industries

Further institutional business studies with a focus on certain types of companies are e.g. B.

Auxiliary sciences are usually also taught in a degree in business administration, in particular:

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Functional business administration is difficult to deal with industry-specific problems, but it does provide industry-independent statements. The branch business administration focuses on the functional aspects relevant for the branch, but consists to a large extent of duplications with other business administration courses.

Intersections with other sciences

Business studies overlap with other sciences. These overlaps are often specific business problem areas, the solution of which is only possible on an interdisciplinary basis. They in turn form independent teaching and research areas, but can often also be selected as SBWL.

Of these areas, business education is mostly assigned to the economic, educational or philosophical faculties of the universities. The economic computer science and industrial engineering are not uniform, either associated with the business administration or in the respective technical faculties. The larger the selection of different engineering specializations, the more likely it is to be assigned to the business administration faculties. Business Mathematics and economic geography are, generally, in science faculties, such as math and geography faculties.


Business knowledge is also imparted within the framework of commercial apprenticeships (example: assistant to industrial, freight forwarding, banker, etc.). Vocational training opportunities are available at technical schools and technical academies (e.g. for state-certified business economist or business economist from the Sparkasse, etc.) Business studies opportunities at universities (universities and technical colleges) are completed with academic degrees (diploma, bachelor, master’s degree). Dual courses of study at vocational academies give their graduates a 'Bachelor' as a state qualification. Private distance learning universities and business schools are also enjoying growing popularity in Germany . The Economist Pass - University / Further Education offers an opportunity for basic education.

Research landscape

Business research includes both basic and applied research. Basic research often deals with very special and abstract questions that are often modeled mathematically or empirically. The precision of the scientific methods is now at a similar level to z. B. in economics or psychology. Applied research serves to provide practical solutions to problems. The recipients of the research are often management, but also legislators, society and non-governmental organizations.

Well-known German-language specialist magazines are Die Betriebswirtschaft (DBW), Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft (ZfB) and Schmalenbach's Journal for Business Research (zfbf). In the Handelsblatt magazine list 2009, which consolidates various magazine reviews , the business journals achieved Academy of Management Journal , Academy of Management Review , Administrative Science Quarterly , Information Systems Research , Journal of Consumer Research , Journal of Finance , Journal of Financial Economics , Journal of Marketing , Management Science and Marketing Science received the highest placements. The following journals are classified in its highest category 4 * in the ranking of the British Association of Business Schools (2010): Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Accounting Review , Accounting, Organizations and Society , Administrative Science Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of Accounting and Economics , Journal of Accounting Research , Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Finance, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research , Management Science, Marketing Science, MIS Quarterly , Operations Research , Organization Science , Review of Financial Studies and Strategic Management Journal .

In the Handelsblatt Betriebswirte Ranking 2009, which analyzes the research performance of 2,100 business economists in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland based on the quality of publications since 2005, Christian Homburg , Ulrich Lichtenthaler , Adamantios Diamantopoulos , Martin Högl , Martin Weber , Armin Scholl , Nils Boysen , Andreas Herrmann , Dirk Sliwka and Stephan M. Wagner the ten best places.

Organizations, associations and clubs


  • Thomas Straub: Introduction to general business administration . 1st edition. Pearson Studies, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-86894-046-6 .
  • Marcell Schweitzer, Alexander Baumeister (Hrsg.): General business administration - theory and politics of economics in companies . 11th edition. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-503-15801-0 .
  • Klaus Brockhoff: History of Business Administration: Annotated Milestones and Original Texts. 2nd Edition. Gabler-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 3-409-21572-7 .
  • Klaus Olfert, Horst-Joachim Rahn : Introduction to business administration. 12th edition. Herne Verlag, 2017, ISBN 978-3-470-64942-9 .
  • Wolfgang Domschke, Armin Scholl: Fundamentals of business administration: An introduction from a decision-oriented point of view . 4th edition. Springer, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-85077-9 .
  • Karl Lechner, Anton Egger, Reinbert Schauer: Introduction to general business administration . 25th edition. Linde Verlag, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-7073-1806-7 .
  • Jean-Paul Thommen, Ann-Kristin Achleitner: General Business Administration: Comprehensive introduction from a management-oriented point of view . 6th edition. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-8349-1325-8 .
  • Günter Wöhe , Ulrich Döring , Gerrit Brösel : Introduction to general business administration . 26th edition. Franz Vahlen, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-8006-5000-2 .
  • Henner Schierenbeck : Basics of business administration . 16th edition. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-486-27322-9 .
  • Ingo Balderjahn , Günter Specht: Introduction to business administration. 7th edition. Schäffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-7910-3532-1 .

Web links

Portal: Economy  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of economy
Wikibooks: Business Administration  - Learning and Teaching Materials
Wiktionary: Business administration  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Artur Woll (Ed.): Wirtschaftslexikon: Jubiläumsausgabe. 2008, p. 82. (
  2. ^ W. Prion: The theory of business operations. Book 1: The economic enterprise in the context of the overall economy. Julius Springer, Berlin 1935, p. 134.
  3. ^ Bernhard Bellinger: History of business administration. Poeschel, Stuttgart 1967, p. 13.
  4. ^ Bernhard Bellinger: History of business administration. Poeschel, Stuttgart 1967, p. 15.
  5. Quoted from Karl-Heinz Groll: Key figures for value-oriented management. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-446-22293-6 , foreword.
  6. Hellmut Ritter An Arabic handbook of commercial science. Separately printed from: Islam. Volume 7, Strasbourg 1916, in: Dissertationes philosophiae. Bonn 1916.
  7. ^ Edmund Sundhoff : Three hundred years of commercial science. Schwartz, Göttingen 1979, ISBN 3-509-01091-4 , p. 20.
  8. Edmund Schreiber: The economic views of scholasticism since Thomas. Fischer, Jena 1913 ( ).
  9. ^ Rolf Dubs : The Origins of the Business Studies in the Italian Renaissance , St. Gallen 1965, p. 22 ff.
  10. ^ Rudolf Seyffert: About the concept, tasks and development of business administration. 4th edition. Poeschel, Stuttgart 1957, p. 35.
  11. ^ Edited as a reprint by Allan Evans, Cambridge Mass. 1936.
  12. ^ Eduard Weber: literary history of the commercial enterprise theory. Tübingen 1914, p. 7.
  13. The manuscript is in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel with the signature Cod. Guelf. 18.4 Aug. 4 ° archived
  14. Lorenz Meder: trade book. It shows which figure in the most prestigious Hendelstetten Europe really buys, sells the same for profit, how the bills are made, compared to pounds, yards and Müntz, and at what time the merchandise is usually kept . Vom Berg and Neuber, Nuremberg 1562.
  15. ^ Eduard Weber: literary history of the commercial enterprise theory. Tübingen 1914, p. 32.
  16. ^ Sundhoff: Three hundred years of commercial science. 1979, p. 25.
  17. Edmund Sundhoff , Dreihund Jahre Handelswissenschaft , 1979, p. 37. For the following cf. Eduard Weber: literary history of commercial management. Tubingen 1914.
  18. ^ Fritz Klein-Blenkers: On the development of business administration in Germany. Festschrift on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Leipzig Graduate School of Management on April 25, 1998, p. 18.
  19. ^ Fritz Klein-Blenkers: On the development of business administration in Germany. Festschrift on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Leipzig Graduate School of Management on April 25, 1998, p. 26 f.
  20. ^ Fritz Schönpflug: Business Administration. Methods and mainstreams . 1936, 2nd expanded edition of "The method problem in individual economics" published by Hans Seischab, Poeschel publishing house, Stuttgart 1954.
  21. Schär, Dietrich and Nicklisch are representatives of ethical normativism, which played a role especially in older business administration.
  22. Wolfgang Burr, Alfred Wagenhofer (Ed.): The Association of University Lecturers for Business Administration: History of the VHB and stories about the VHB. published by the Association of University Lecturers, Springer Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8349-2939-6 .
  23. Erich Gutenberg: Fundamentals of business administration. Volume 1: The Production. 24th edition. Berlin 1984; ders .: Basics of business administration. Volume 2: The paragraph. 17th edition. Berlin 1983; ders .: Basics of business administration. Volume 3: The Finances. 8th edition. Berlin 1980.
  24. ^ Hans Ulrich: The enterprise as a productive social system. 2nd Edition. Berlin / Stuttgart 1970.
  25. Edmund Heinen: Introduction to Business Administration. 9th edition. Wiesbaden 1992.
  26. Günther Schanz: Fundamentals of behavioral business administration. Tuebingen 1977.
  27. ^ Jean-Paul Thommen, Ann-Kristin Achleitner: General business administration. 6th edition. Wiesbaden 2009.
  28. Günter Wöhe, Ulrich Döring, Gerrit Brösel: Introduction to General Business Administration. 26th edition. Munich 2016.
  29. ^ Association for the promotion of the history of business administration (ed.): Writings on the history of business administration . Since 1988, 20 volumes have been published in Bergisch Gladbach and Cologne.
  30. Sebastian Kummer, Oskar Grün, Werner Jammernegg: Basic features of procurement, production and logistics. 3. Edition. Pearson, Munich 2013, p. 27 f.
  31. Jürgen Weber: Considerations on a theoretical foundation of logistics in business administration. In: Peter Nyhuis (ed.): Contributions to a theory of logistics. Springer, 2008, p. 53 f.
  32. Handelsblatt Ranking BWL: Journal List 2009 on
  33. ABS Launches Academic Journal Quality Guide Version 4.
  34. Handelsblatt Ranking Business Administration 2009.