Company Man: The Rise and Fall of Corporate Life

Company Man: The Rise and Fall of Corporate Life

by Anthony Sampson
     
 

The transformation of the corporate world is one of the most extraordinary events of the twentieth century. Not long ago, loyalty was the hallmark of the "company man," and the corporation he worked for seemed to provide permanent security. But the company man of the 1950s - or even the 1970s - would hardly recognize the corporation of the 1990s. The buildings may…  See more details below

Overview

The transformation of the corporate world is one of the most extraordinary events of the twentieth century. Not long ago, loyalty was the hallmark of the "company man," and the corporation he worked for seemed to provide permanent security. But the company man of the 1950s - or even the 1970s - would hardly recognize the corporation of the 1990s. The buildings may look the same, but everything else has changed. How and why this transformation took place is the subject of Company Man, a brilliant social history of business. Anthony Sampson begins with a perceptive look at capitalism as it began to develop its modern form in the middle of the nineteenth century and the notion of the company man - respectable, reliable, and reasonably well paid - began to emerge. Sampson follows the evolution of this species into the twentieth century as formerly entrepreneurial organizations began to ossify into bureaucratic, complacent structures that reached their peak in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Then, for good reasons, everything began to unravel, with consequences not only for the companies but also for the millions of people who relied on them for their livelihoods. The changes of the past twenty years have been brutal and are continuing. Corporate raiders, Asian competitors with new and better ways to manage, computers taking over the functions of middle managers, and fads like reengineering that cause tremendous disruption all mean there's no longer any such thing as a typical day at the office - or a typical career. The office and the company man have been fixtures in the lives of middle-class people for well over a hundred years. Anthony Sampson provides answers and a look into the future for the many people who want to know what happened and why. Will the corporation still be the source of a middle-class lifestyle for millions? Or will it evolve so that its riches will be dispensed to a corporate aristocracy consisting of the CEOs and their top management...with eve

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this provocative and incisive social history of the corporation, British journalist Sampson observes that the ``organization man'' of the 1950s and '60s-a loyal worker confident of annual raises and a growing pension-is virtually extinct. Today's company men and company women face insecurity in offices that seem placeless networks of telecommuters and data banks, with short-term specialists and consultants increasingly replacing lifetime employees. Drawing on an array of writers, including H. G. Wells, G. B. Shaw, Franz Kafka, Sinclair Lewis, Thorstein Veblen, Kurt Vonnegut and John Kenneth Galbraith, Sampson explores the often dehumanizing fabric of corporate life and charts the history of corporations from 17th-century European merchant companies and Rockefeller's Standard Oil to the present, with profiles of IBM, Microsoft, General Motors, Sony, Toyota and Shell, among others. While middle managers and clerical employees are being squeezed and are more vulnerable to layoffs, top bosses have become more powerful and better-paid than ever, and Sampson urges safeguards to protect both shareholders and employees against the lack of corporate accountability. (Oct.)
Library Journal
With downsizing, home offices, global competition, and other shocks, the traditional white-collar worker is being transported to an alien work environment. British author Sampson (The Essential Anatomy of Britain, Harcourt, 1993) traces here the development of company workers and then examines the forces transforming the workplace. He reviews American companies as well as European and Japanese organizations. The author focuses on some specific examples, such as IBM and Exxon, to demonstrate the changes in corporate structure from early family businesses to corporate bureaucracy to raiders and international conglomerates, emphasizing how this progression has affected company loyalty and job security. Although Sampson constructs an interesting narrative about corporate growth and change, he offers few predictions about the future. A good selection for larger business collections.-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. System, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
David Rouse
Management theorists and social critics can explain how work has been transformed and the employment contract altered in the information society with books such as Peter Drucker's "Post-Capitalist Society" (1993) or Jeremy Rifkin's "End of Work" (1995), but leave it to journalists such as Sampson to show that these changes have happened and what they mean. Readable and filled with insights, this social history paints a portrait of how the world of work has changed. Sampson begins his story in Seattle, where the contrasting cultures of that city's two most well known firms--Boeing and Microsoft--are dramatic examples of the extent of that change. Following "The Money Lenders", "The Midas Touch", "The Arms Bazaar", and "The Seven Sisters", "Company Man" is the latest in Sampson's 20-year string of successful, accessible business books.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812926316
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/26/1995
Edition description:
1st U.S. ed
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.65(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.18(d)

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