Big Business and the State: Historical Transitions and Corporate Transformations, 1880s-1990s

SUNY Press
2
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In Big Business and the State Harland Prechel develops a conceptual framework that contrasts with prevailing definitions of the corporation. His analysis shows that corporate property rights and the legal basis of ownership are crucial to understanding corporate behavior. The book examines how historical transitions affected the three most significant corporate transformations in the last 110 years (1880s–1900s, 1920s–1930s, 1980s–1990s). During each period, in response to economic crisis, big business engaged in political behavior to pressure state managers to realign the institutional arrangements in which corporations were embedded. The historical multicausal method shows that economic crisis, managerial inefficiencies, dependence on external capital markets, and the political processes of redefining corporate property rights and corporate tax laws are crucial to understanding corporate transformation.
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About the author

Harland Prechel is Associate Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University, and the author of Corporate and Class Restructuring.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
317
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ISBN
9780791492499
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Corporate & Business History
Business & Economics / Organizational Behavior
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Not since Edward Mason's classic book The Corporation in Modern Society appeared in 1959 has anyone compiled an authoritative overview of the American business firm. Such a survey is now clearly overdue, for in the last thirty years both the corporation and the business environment has changed radically. In The American Corporation Today, Carl Kaysen and other leading students of business and markets from around the country provide a much-needed analysis of American corporate life at the end of the century. Here is the American corporation from every angle--its postwar history, its relation to the law, its financing, its impact on technological innovation, its role as employer and as political force, and much more. The contributors--all of whom are recognized experts in their fields--not only tackle many of the same key areas that the contributors to Mason's classic study looked at, but they also illuminate issues that have only arisen in recent years. For instance, Raymond Vernon describes the increasing globalization of American business, where the net income from operations outside the U.S. is now nearly half of that from domestic operations (as opposed to one-tenth in the 1950s). James Q. Wilson traces how the corporation has become a full-time political actor, showing how it reinvented its political strategy and tactics in the 1960s in the face of a wave of new consumer, environmental, and worker health legislation. Gregory Acs and Eugene Steuerle show how the corporation promotes the commonweal, acting as agent for the employee in purchasing pension, health, and other welfare benefit plans, while Lester Thurow casts a critical eye at the decline of median real wages of American males over the last twenty years (never before have a majority of American workers suffered real wage reductions while the real per capita gross domestic product was increasing). In other pieces, corporate finance experts Charles Calomiris and Carlos Ramirez advocate removing legal constraints on financial institutions that prevent them from providing the full range of business financing from short-term debt to equity, Michael Useem looks at the rise of education and training as a vexing corporate issue, and Barbara Bergmann discusses the increasingly diverse work force, arguing that ending bias is in the corporation's best interest. And finally Neil Harris provides a fascinating discussion of architecture, exploring how companies have become the principle patrons of important architecture since the 1950s. Vital to everyone concerned with American big business today, this collection is sure to become the new standard upon which future studies of the corporation will be built.
There were dozens of books about Watergate, but only All the President's Men gave readers the full story, with all the drama and nuance and exclusive reporting. And thirty years later, if you're going to read only one book on Watergate, that's still the one. Today, Enron is the biggest business story of our time, and Fortune senior writers Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind are the new Woodward and Bernstein.

Remarkably, it was just two years ago that Enron was thought to epitomize a great New Economy company, with its skyrocketing profits and share price. But that was before Fortune published an article by McLean that asked a seemingly innocent question: How exactly does Enron make money? From that point on, Enron's house of cards began to crumble. Now, McLean and Elkind have investigated much deeper, to offer the definitive book about the Enron scandal and the fascinating people behind it.

Meticulously researched and character driven, Smartest Guys in the Room takes the reader deep into Enron's past—and behind the closed doors of private meetings. Drawing on a wide range of unique sources, the book follows Enron's rise from obscurity to the top of the business world to its disastrous demise. It reveals as never before major characters such as Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow, as well as lesser known players like Cliff Baxter and Rebecca Mark. Smartest Guys in the Room is a story of greed, arrogance, and deceit—a microcosm of all that is wrong with American business today. Above all, it's a fascinating human drama that will prove to be the authoritative account of the Enron scandal.

This volume of "Research in Political Sociology" focuses on one of the central themes in political sociology: the relationship between political power and the policy formation process. The first section examines the exercise of power in two distinct policy arenas: the interlocking networks among policy-planning organizations, and the effects of PACs on the voting behavior of elected officials in Canada and the U.S. In contrast to corporate interlocking directorates, although a shift to the right occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, board interlocks of policy-planning organizations are relatively stable over time. The second article shows that PACs affect voting behavior of U.S. elected officials, but they have little influence on voting in Canada's House of Commons. This suggests that the structure of the state affects the capacity of elites to exercise power over it.The second section examines the capacity of theories in economic sociology to explain the social organization of capitalism. The authors move beyond the current institutional frameworks by elaborating how the generic tendencies and contradictions of capitalism generate political conflicts and outcomes. This framework also stresses how organizational and institutional structures, class conflict, logics of action, and the contradictions of capitalism shape and limit the options that are available to social actors. The articles in the third section examine the effects of labor and community based political strategies on policy outcomes. These articles identify the contingent basis of political behavior and show how social structures and historical conditions create both opportunities for and limitations on the exercise power.Whereas the legal structure of labor relations in the U.S. limited the capacity of workers to mobilize, the flexibility of community-based coalitions increased their capacity to form coalitions to mobilize politically. Together, the articles in this volume show that political struggles are integral to capitalist society. These struggles take a range of forms and the outcomes are affected by the historically specific organizational and institutional arrangements in which they are embedded.
The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

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