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Pull: Networking and Success since Benjamin Franklin (Harvard Studies in Business History) Paperback – September 24, 2007
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A bold, ambitious, and important book. Lairdshows that the key to understanding how people succeed is social capital-the networks, mentors, role models, manners, connections, and understanding of codes of behavior that enable some Americans but not others to advance. (Daniel Horowitz, author of The Anxieties of Affluence)
Laird offers an illuminating analysis of how exceptional achievers have combined individual talent with social assets... to rise in society. (Hardy Green Business Week 2006-03-13)
Laird provides a comprehensive perspective and rich historical insight into the importance of social dynamics in achieving career success. She retells the success stories of famous Americans ranging from Horatio Alger, Benjamin Franklin, and Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates and beyond to make the point that none were simply "self-made men." (T. Gutteridge Choice 2006-06-01)
[A] highly readable appraisal of the social dynamics that navigate some Americans towards opportunity while steering others away...Pamela Laird has written an important book about the social forces that have blocked individual endeavour. (Margaret Walsh Business History 2007-03-01)
Laird's historical perspective yields fresh insights into the history of American business practices and offers an original perspective on the challenges made by feminism and civil rights in the last decades of the twentieth century. (Kathy Peiss Business History Review 2007-04-01)
Top Customer Reviews
Laird is an internationally acclaimed business scholar who set the record straight on marketing's formative years in her first book, ADVERTISING PROGRESS. Now, this prodigiously research new study examines the history of the self-made man, providing an important corrective to the Horatio Alger stories that resonate in the American imagination.
This is not a "how-to book," so if you are looking for step-by-step instructions on how to be successful, you had best look through Amazon for something else. However, if you are looking for a thoughtful, carefully researched analysis that talks about the history of success and failure, you will find much here. Was Benjamin Franklin a "self-made man"? No, says Laird. Franklin, like many others in PULL, was a smart guy, who knew how to work the system and make it work for him. He recognized the importance of developing friends in the right places, and those sponsors PULLed him up the economic ladder.
While Laird starts with Franklin, she brings her story into our own time, with a careful analysis of the pros and cons of equal opportunity and affirmative action initiatives, and a discussion of the real importance of mentoring and sponsorship in the corporate world. Fashionable theorists cited by other Amazon.Read more ›
The book presses the unremarkable point that social cohesion can exclude people, but it has an angry tone that makes this wrong. Rather than shedding light on the psychological and social forces that replicate these structures, it reads more like a catalog of the injustices that this have been metted out. The philosophical issue of what makes an ideal world where everyone is the best off is complex, and this book does not address this. Most importantly, it references very few of the books and studies that have been done on social networks for the past 70 years. I would recommend that readers look at the works of Mark Granovetter, Charles Tilly, Harrison White and others who have made significant contributions to our undersanding of social structure, much of it based on empirical research and not opinions. The only network researcher she mentions, Wayne Baker, she does in a negative light. I, personally, find Baker's empirical research much more compelling that Laird's.
You can't dispute the premise of this book. Most thinking people know success doesn't bubble up out of an abyss. But in 439 pages, Laird is not going to leave out the other side of the equation. She spends adequate time in identifying those who weren't pulled. Those who didn't have social capital. Those who could have contributed, but were pushed away due to injustice and discrimination.
Is Pull just a historical study? A diatribe against inequality? An unrealistic view of how the world works? Or a propaganda piece for reshaping the system? I'm not going to pull you into that discussion right now. Read the book.
In these times of tremendous financial inequality and economic uncertainty, it is critical that we understand how business success operates and how we can both work toward a more equitable distribution of opportunity and harness the powerful forces of social capital in our own lives. Pull provides this understanding. It does not just teach history -- it shows how our world works.