John Micklethwait oversees coverage of the United States for The Economist. He lives in London. Adrian Wooldridge works for The Economist in Washington, D.C. They are coauthors of A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Promise of Globalization and The Witch Doctors: Making Sense of the Management Gurus.
Considering the astounding impact companies have had on every corner of civilization, it's amazing that the development of the institution has been largely unexamined. Economist editors Micklethwait and Wooldridge present a compact and timely book that deftly sketches the history of the company. They trace its progress from Assyrian partnership agreements through the 16th- and 17th-century European "charter companies" that opened trade with distant parts of the world, to today's multinationals. The authors' breadth of knowledge is impressive. They infuse their engaging prose with a wide range of cultural, historical and literary references, with quotes from poets to presidents. Micklethwait and Wooldrige point out that the enormous power wielded by the company is nothing new. Companies were behind the slave trade, opium and imperialism, and the British East India Company ruled the subcontinent with its standing army of native troops, outmanning the British army two to one. By comparison, the modern company is a bastion of restraint and morality. In a short, final chapter on the company's future, the authors argue against the fear, in antiglobalization circles, that "a handful of giant companies are engaged in a `silent takeover' of the world." Indeed, trends point toward large organizations breaking into smaller units. Moreover, the authors argue that for all the change companies have engendered over time, their force has been for an aggregate good. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (On sale Mar. 4) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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
Two Economist staffers explain how the joint-stock company became today's corporate giant. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.