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

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Rutgers University Press, Sep 30, 2011 - Business & Economics - 248 pages

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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Contents

The Corporate American Dream
9
Corporate and National Character
15
From Public Purpose to Private Profit
22
Corporate Crashes
35
Corporations Blow Their Chance
45
Roosevelts Confused Anticorporatism
51
The Right to Manage 61
61
Corporations Recover Their Moral Authority
67
The False Confidence of the Anticorporatists
122
Corporate America Loses World Supremacy
130
Laying the Groundwork for the Corporations
137
Managing by Values
145
Creating the Concept of Corporate Culture
152
Reagan Aids Corporations by Bashing Government
163
SupplySiders versus the Big Corporation
173
Reengineering the Corporation
180

Creating Reagan and His Voters
76
Masking the Arrogance of Power
87
Responsibility versus Profit at General Motors
93
Critics of Managerial Character
100
JFKs Pyrrhic Victory over U S Steel
106
McNamara and the Staffers
115
George W Bush Enron and the Great Recession
189
Can the Corporate American Dream Be Saved?
198
Notes
209
Index
219
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

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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