Chosen by BusinessWeek as One of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year With apologies to Hegel, Marx, and Lenin, the basic unit of modern society is neither the state, nor the commune, nor the party; it is the company. From this bold premise, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge chart the rise of one of history’s great catalysts for good and evil.
In a “fast-paced and well-written” work (Forbes), the authors reveal how innovations such as limitations on liability have permitted companies to rival religions and even states in importance, governing the flow of wealth and controlling human affairs–all while being largely exempt from the rules that govern our lives.
The Company is that rare, remarkable book that fills a major gap we scarcely knew existed. With it, we are better able to make sense of the past four centuries, as well as the events of today.
About The Company
From the acclaimed authors of A Future Perfect comes the untold story of how the company became the world’s most powerful institution.
Like all groundbreaking books, The Company fills a hole we didn’t know existed, revealing that we cannot make sense of the past four hundred years until we place that seemingly humble Victorian innovation, the joint-stock company, in the center of the frame.
With their trademark authority and wit, Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge reveal the company to be one of history’s great catalysts, for good and for ill, a mighty engine for sucking in, recombining, and pumping out money, goods, people, and culture to every corner of the globe. What other earthly invention has the power to grow to any size, and to live to any age? What else could have given us both the stock market and the British Empire? The company man, the company town, and company time? Disneyfication and McDonald’sization, to say nothing of Coca-colonialism? Through its many mutations, the company has always incited controversy, and governments have always fought to rein it in. Today, though Marx may spin in his grave and anarchists riot in the streets, the company exercises an unparalleled influence on the globe, and understanding what this creature is and where it comes from has never been a more pressing matter. To the rescue come these acclaimed authors, with a short volume of truly vast range and insight.
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Praise for The Company by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
“Remarkable . . . True believers in the free market faith and heretics alike will profit from knowing this history.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“A swashbuckling journey through the past and into the future of the modern company.” –Los Angeles Times The authors take up [the corporation’s] tale with brio and wit . . . . Worthwhile for almost anyone with an interest in the subject.” –The Wall Street Journal
“The limited-liability joint-stock company is a very marvel of the modern world economy, a historical force to rival religions, monarchies, and even states. The Company tells the colorful story of its birth and maturation—and its pervasive social and cultural consequences—with rare concision and flair.” —David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear and professor of history at Stanford University
“A fascinating and delightful investigation both of how the guilds and ‘corporate persons’ of the Middle Ages turned into the institution from which so many people today directly and indirectly earn their daily bread and of the issues facing the company in the twenty-first century.” —Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize and coauthor of The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy