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The Company: A Short History of a…

The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea (2003)

by John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge (Author)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A nicely told history, but far too pro business to be seen a objective. Each criticism of corporations raised by the authors is slapped away in a condescending manner. The contention that the corporation is overwhelmingly a positive thing for the world seems supported, but while the authors dismiss faulty anti-corporation exaggerations they greatly downplay some points. They make it sound as if the genocide of the Belgian Congo was ended by a single protest, not a decades long struggle, and use hostage taking not murder or mutilation as the example of corporate brutality. Later when pointing out that corporations do more good than bad they go back to the Congo and point out one corporate official built schools and roads and failed a turn a profit in his corner of the Congo. This a really shocking downplaying of one of histories great tragedies. ( )
  yeremenko | Aug 21, 2015 |
The history of the company. I liked the first, historical parts best.
Share risks and rewards. European monarchs created chartered companies to pursue their dreams of imperial expansion." Ex east India Company, Virginia Company. Limited liability was key. "[T]he three big ideas behind the modern company: that it could be an "artificial person," with the same ability to do business as a real person; that it could issue tradable shares to any number of investors; and that those investors could have limited liability (so they could lose only the money they had committed to the firm)."
Violent history, now different. Slavery, war, etc.
Merchants and monopolies. State monopolies inefficient. In Europe at least internal competition.
Unlimited liability. De Medici innovative-separate partnerships and profit sharing arrangements.
Northern Europe: copies much from Italy,but most imp contribution was guilds and chartered companies. Corporate bodies started, immortal. Towns, guilds, etc.
Royal charter-exclusive trading rights. Joint stock company. Start to buy shares, and limited liability. East India company troubled initially, but managed. Exclusive rights to sell tea in the American colonies-Boston tea party. Monopolies, criticism from Adam Smith. Courts. Government of big organizations and many people.
3. A prolonged and painful birth 1750-1862
Reinvigorate the idea of the company. Partnerships most common, but unlimited liability a problem. State competition to have the least regulation in order to attract companies. Railways changed things.

Recommended for the historical parts. ( )
  ohernaes | Dec 22, 2014 |
too brief, too concise history of corporate business form; too focused on very recent (mid to late 20th cent) ( )
  FKarr | Oct 6, 2012 |
A very useful summary (short) of the emergence of the modern corporation. Authors are blind to the blemishes of their subject. ( )
  onogur | Dec 23, 2008 |
Micklethwait and Wooldridge provide us with a brief and often illuminating look at the history of the limited-liability joint stock company. Their story begins in the 16th century and ends with some ruminations about things to come in the 21st. The book is slightly less than two-hundred pages. From these two details it should be clear that the scope of the project is wide and detail is often exchanged for brevity and economy of expression. Sometimes this works, other times it does not.

For an example of the latter, the authors, at times, use slightly technical economists' terminology without defining their terms. That's appropriate practice in many cases, but not in an introductory history aimed at the educated layman.

However, I must say that the writing is mostly quite good and the authors manage to tell the story of corporate growth and evolution in a compelling way. The book covers mainly the U.S. and Britain, with some discussion of France, Germany, and Japan. They take an attitude that is generally pro-business and look at the corporation as a sort of paragon of what is good about the West. So this is, in many ways, a history written by the winning team.

Nonetheless, the authors do point to and analyze some instances in which corporate maleficence has been undeniable (such as the recent Enron and Worldcom debacles); they are, however, quick to suggest that such incidents are exceptions to the rule.

Anyhow, the history portion of the text, while necessarily cursory given the aims of the authors and the length of the book, is well-researched and well-written. That alone makes it a worthwhile read.

The evaluative portions leave something to be desired. While it is undeniable that large joint stock companies have been a force of change in the world and have unleashed an age of unprecedented economic growth, the authors are too quick to equate change and growth with "the good".

Many good things have been made possible only because of incorporation but what we should ask ourselves is this: on balance, have corporations made our lives better or worse? Although I tend to think they've made things better, I don't think this answer is obvious and there are still many serious questions to confront regarding the the relationship between corporations and the communities that they (ostensibly) serve. ( )
  NoLongerAtEase | Nov 7, 2008 |
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Wooldridge, AdrianAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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(Introduction): On the evening of October 7, 1893, a new operetta opened to a packed house in London's West End.
Before the modern company came of age in the mid-nineteenth century, it had an incredibly protracted and often highly irresponsible youth.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812972872, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:04 -0400)

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"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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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