Corporate Dreams: Big Business in American Democracy from the Great Depression to the Great Recession

Overview

Public trust in corporations plummeted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when ?Lehman Brothers? and ?General Motors? became dirty words for many Americans. In Corporate Dreams, James Hoopes argues that Americans still place too much faith in corporations and, especially, in the idea of ?values-based leadership? favored by most CEOs. The danger of corporations, he suggests, lies not just in their economic power, but also in how their confused and undemocratic values are ...

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Corporate Dreams: Big Business in American Democracy from the Great Depression to the Great Recession

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Overview

Public trust in corporations plummeted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when “Lehman Brothers” and “General Motors” became dirty words for many Americans. In Corporate Dreams, James Hoopes argues that Americans still place too much faith in corporations and, especially, in the idea of “values-based leadership” favored by most CEOs. The danger of corporations, he suggests, lies not just in their economic power, but also in how their confused and undemocratic values are infecting Americans’ visions of good governance.

Corporate Dreams proposes that Americans need to radically rethink their relationships with big business and the government. Rather than buying into the corporate notion of “values-based leadership,” we should view corporate leaders with the same healthy suspicion that our democratic political tradition teaches us to view our political leaders. Unfortunately, the trend is moving the other way. Corporate notions of leadership are invading our democratic political culture when it should be the reverse.

To diagnose the cause and find a cure for our toxic attachment to corporate models of leadership, Hoopes goes back to the root of the problem, offering a comprehensive history of corporate culture in America, from the Great Depression to today’s Great Recession. Combining a historian’s careful eye with an insider’s perspective on the business world, this provocative volume tracks changes in government economic policy, changes in public attitudes toward big business, and changes in how corporate executives view themselves.

Whether examining the rise of Leadership Development programs or recounting JFK’s Pyrrhic victory over U.S. Steel, Hoopes tells a compelling story of how America lost its way, ceding authority to the policies and values of corporate culture. But he also shows us how it’s not too late to return to our democratic ideals—and that it’s not too late to restore the American dream.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
"Throughout American history, there has been an intriguing tension between corporate authoritarian rule and the democratic ideals of the government. Hoopes argues in this timely volume that despite prevailing anticorporatism, Americans have been in awe of corporations and have placed too much faith in their leadership. He examines the ebb and flow of illusions surrounding business management from the Great Depression to the great recession and seeks to reveal that the corporation is a moral paradox that improves prosperity by subjecting its workforce to overbearing authority. Hoopes argues that Americans must understand the usefulness of corporations while being wary of their power, and must maintain discerning suspicion of corporate power as they have been mindful of politicians. Excellent chapter on critics of managerial character. Recommended."
Journal of American History
"James Hoopes believes we need to understand the differences between valid 'entrepreneurial leadership in politics and government' and tired versions of corporate fluff. He argues that simplistic president-as-chief-executive-officer equations of politics and business are dangerous. This short book is informative."
MacArthur Foundation Chair in History, University of California, Santa Barbara - Nelson Lichtenstein
"In this expansive, engaging, and learned history of the ever-changing set of ideas and ideologies which have legitimated corporate power and profit in America, James Hoopes explores the presumptions, popular as well as academic, that have for so long sustained managerial authority and corporate prestige. Because Hoopes is a thoughtful ethicist, as well as an accomplished historian of business enterprise, his book has the kind of moral weight and political urgency that commend it to a very wide readership indeed."
Library Journal
Hoopes (business ethics, Babson Coll.; Hail to the CEO: George W. Bush and the Failure of Moral Leadership) throws his hat into the crowded ring of books on the evils of corporate America. Others include Ted Nace's Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy, William D. Cohan's Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came To Rule the World, and Jeff Madrick's Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present. Hoopes seeks to resurrect in Americans a "moderate anticorporatism" by tracing the history of corporate culture from the 1930s to the end of George W. Bush's presidency. He divides the book into seven parts that correspond to stages in the evolutionary time line of corporate culture, each of which includes four vignettes that describe a defining event or important personality that significantly impacted the stage. VERDICT A quick read with academic flavor, this title will appeal to fans of political and business history as well as those looking to better understand what led to America's latest recession.—Sara Holder, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813551302
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2011
  • Series: Ideas in Action
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,359,121
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

JAMES HOOPES is Murata Professor of Business Ethics at Babson College. He has written several books, on subjects ranging from business history to American political theory, including Hail to the CEO: George W. Bush and the Failure of Moral Leadership.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part I. The Corporate American Dream at Its Height and in Its Origins

1. The Corporate American Dream

2. Corporate and National Character

3. From Public Purpose to Private Profit

4. Corporations as Enemies of the Free Market

Part II. Corporate Failure and Government Fix

5. Corporate Crashes

6. Managers versus Markets

7. Corporations Blow Their Chance to End the Depression

8. Roosevelt's Confused Anticorporatism

Part III. The Corporation Strikes Back

9. The Right to Manage

10. Corporations Recover Their Moral Authority

11. Killing the Unions Softly

12. Creating Reagan and His Voters

Part IV. What Manner of Man(ager)?

13. Masking the Arrogance of Power

14. Responsibility versus Profit at General Motors

15. Critics of Managerial Character

16. JFK's Pyrrhic Victory over U.S. Steel

Part V. The Corporation in the Wilderness Again

17. McNamara and the Staffers

18. The False Confidence of the Anticorporatists

19. Corporate America Loses World Supremacy

20. Laying the Groundwork for the Corporation's Cultural Comeback

Part VI. Leadership

21. Managing by Values

22. Creating the Concept of Corporate Culture

23. Inventing the Leadership Development Industry

24. Reagan Aids Corporations by Bashing Government

Part VII. Entrepreneurship

25. Supply-Siders versus the Big Corporation

26. Reengineering the Corporation

27. George W. Bush, Enron, and the Great Recession

28. Can the Corporate American Dream Be Saved?

Notes

Index

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