Big business has been the lever of big change over time in American life, change in economy, society, politics, and the envelope of existence--in work, mores, language, consciousness, and the pace and bite of time. Such is the pattern revealed by this historical mosaic.
--From the Preface
Weaving historical source material with his own incisive analysis, Jack Beatty traces the rise of the American corporation, from its beginnings in the 17th century through today, illustrating how it has come to loom colossus-like over the economy, society, culture, and politics. Through an imaginative selection of readings made up of historical and contemporary documents, opinion pieces, reportage, biographies, company histories, and scenes from literature, all introduced and explicated by Beatty, Colossus makes a convincing case that it is the American corporation that has been, for good and ill, the primary maker and manager of change in modern America. In this anthology, readers are shown how a developing "business civilization" has affected domestic life in America, how labor disputes have embodied a struggle between freedom and fraternity, how corporate leaders have faced the recurring dilemma of balancing fiduciary with social responsibility, and how Silicon Valley and Wall Street have come to dwarf Capitol Hill in pervasiveness of influence. From the slave trade and the transcontinental railroad to the software giants and the multimedia conglomerates, Colossus reveals how the corporation emerged as the foundation of representative government in the United States, as the builder of the young nation's public works, as the conqueror of American space, and as the inexhaustible engine of economic growth from the Civil War to today. At the same time, Colossus gives perspective to the century-old debate over the corporation's place in the good society.
A saga of freedom and domination, success and failure, creativity and conformity, entrepreneurship and monopoly, high purpose and low practice, Colossus is a major historical achievement.
In this anthology of news articles, critical essays and excerpts from biographies, letters and literature, editor Beatty (The World According to Peter Drucker), a senior editor at theAtlantic Monthly, charts a history of for-profit corporations from the 17th century to today from the Massachusetts Bay Company and the first railroads to Safeway and Time Warner. Contributors as diverse as a mill worker named Sarah Hodgson, John Steinbeck, 19th-century Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney and Susan Faludi address issues ranging from child labor, strikes and capitalist indoctrination in schools to scientific management and the hostile takeover. The focus of the book drifts from a history of for-profit corporations to an account of large-scale business enterprises regardless of legal form. However, some inclusions fit neither vision, such as a commentary by Charles Dickens on American spitting and a 30-page discussion of AT&T advertising from 1906 to 1939. More confusing are the sometimes sloppy attributions: an extreme example begins with a fragment from a quotation by Alexander Hamilton followed by a quote from "two historians of the 1790's" without further elaboration on who they were and whether they wrote during the period or studied it. Drawing mostly on recent secondary sources, the book encompasses a range of viewpoints, from intellectuals to laborers, yielding a sometimes muddled but often richly textured overview. has enjoyed great success, this flawed yet intriguing collection won't come close to Chernow's sales, but should find a solid niche.