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Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America Hardcover – April 10, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 the Atlantic 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. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. (On-sale Apr. 10)Forecast: Aimed at the sophisticated audience among whom Ron Chernow (The House of Morgan, etc.) has enjoyed great success, this flawed yet intriguing collection won't come close to Chernow's sales, but should find a solid niche.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Beautifully edited by Atlantic Monthly senior editor Beatty (The World According to Peter Drucker), this richly detailed anthology traces the rise of the American corporation from its roots in Colonial America to its present dominance of the American economy, society, and culture. The book's greatest strength is its evenhanded approach to complicated topics, such as the corporation's place in society, the concept of limited liability, and the role that women, children, minorities, and slaves played in the development of the American corporate state. Equally impressive is the finely honed collection of readings that bring to life the people, technological innovations, places, and events that shaped the corporation as we know it today. Especially useful are sections highlighting the contributions of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Edward Harriman, Henry Clay Frick, Henry Ford, J. Pierpont Morgan, Thomas J. Watson, Alfred P. Sloan, Frederick Winslow Taylor, and Bill Gates. Essential for both academic and public libraries. Norman B. Hutcherson, California State Univ., Bakersfield
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway (April 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767903528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767903523
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,386,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
These writings consider the impact on American history and events of the rise of big business, using essays, poems, editorials and company histories to reveal that it's the corporation which has ultimately served as the agent of social change in this country. An intriguing collection of writings provides a different kind of economic and social history: one based on business events.
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Format: Hardcover
How to describe this book? It has immense scope ("how the corporation changed America" during the past 350 years) but, under Beatty's brilliant supervision, the narrative somehow retains a sense of intimacy as he and others focus on defining moments, pivotal developments, heroes and villains, great business successes as well as failures, shifting roles played by the federal government, westward expansion, two world wars, natural disasters, and the emergence of high technology This is indeed an epic narrative worthy of Tolstoy with a diversity of "characters" worthy of Dickens. Beatty skillfully blends all manner of different sources with a series of his own commentaries. Great stuff.
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Format: Hardcover
Jack Beatty assembles a chorus of voices, in Colossus, singing the effects of the corporation upon America. These voices cohere in contrapuntal fashion, in such a way to leave one wondering for some time as to the bent of the author toward the corporation.
From Vanderbilt to Gates, he describes the "financial fathers" and the edifices which they have created. We are given the stories of their evils and virtues, much rehearsed in other works by various authors. What Beatty achieves, however, through using a chorus of voices is a perspicacious view, all congealing to a fine conclusion, which so often falls hollow in historical works.
Beatty succeeds in making concerns about the future of the corporation very relevant by demonstrating a trajectory of the corporation through history. First, corporations are a set up for public works...then for profit with the public good in view. The public good recedes further and further from the purpose of the corporation.
All the while the government sector does a dance of power with the corporation. While the corporation spirals to ever greater spheres of influence, Government takes on more and more protective roles. Sometimes the corporation is out of control, other's government is implementing a disciplinary measure. The now popular whipping boy of the media, Big Government, has nothing on the evils of corporate power.
What could be more relevant to a time when we have seen the concentration of power into the board rooms of few corporations? When we have seen the installation of a corporate lackey into one of the highest positions of power in the world? A very important read for any person concerned with the role of the corporation.
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Format: Unknown Binding
"How the corporation changed America"---from the government charters brought to our shores by the first Europeans to develop the means to enrich their mother countries, to the challenges of the multinational conglomerates of the present, "Colossus" records what made American capitalism.

But it's not altogether a pretty story.

Following colonial beginnings, the modern curtain rises on the drive, innovation and creativity of the railroad, automotive, communications and energy industries which provided America with boundless potential for financial growth and expansion. But their success soon became tainted by the formation of restrictive monopolies, which required government intervention to restore competition.

Even in the wake of such humbling action, the heads of corporations began to separate themselves from the owners of the business (stockholders), believing they were accountable only to themselves. And increasingly, managers were no longer drawn from the ranks of the industry itself but rather were recruited from outside the firm for their skills as lawyers and financiers.

These short-sighted "money men", completely out of touch with the real objectives of the firm, ushered in a time of mergers and takeovers which concentrated on profit over product. Out went the risk and venture capital which had consistently produced the innovative goods and services that made them successful in the first place. They quickly fell victim to foreign competition and by their folly forever erased the once long-envied preeminence of American industry in the eyes of the world. There can be no better example of this tragedy than outdated General Motors losing the battle against more progressive Japanese imports.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a book, no kidding a must read to see who, what, and the games that corporations have played on this country.Power is power and man did these guys use it and we are not seeing what is the outcome of their power and there factors/agents.
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