From the acclaimed authors of A Future Perfect comes the untold story of how the company became the world’s most powerful institution.
Like all groundbreaking books, The Company fills a hole we didn’t know existed, revealing that we cannot make sense of the past four hundred years until we place that seemingly humble Victorian innovation, the joint-stock company, in the center of the frame.
With their trademark authority and wit, 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. To the rescue come these acclaimed authors, with a short volume of truly vast range and insight.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Business & Economics eBook: The Company|
|Release Date: 03-04-2003|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||The Company|
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Merchants and Monopolists
3000 b.c. — a.d. 1500
Before the modern company came of age in the mid-nineteenth century, it had an incredibly protracted and often highly irresponsible youth. The merchants and marauders, imperialists and speculators, who dominated business life for so many centuries might not have formed fully fledged companies as we know them, but they nevertheless created powerful organizations that changed commercial life.
As long ago as 3000 b.c., Mesopotamia boasted business arrangements that went beyond simple barter. Sumerian families who traded along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers developed contracts that tried to rationalize property ownership. The temple functioned as both bank and state overseer. The Assyrians (2000–1800 b.c.), a group one normally associates with biblical savagery, took this farther. One document shows an Assyrian ruler formally sharing power with the elders, the town, and the merchants (or karum, named after the word for quay, where they sat). There was even a partnership agreement. Under the terms of one such contract, some fourteen investors put twenty-six pieces of gold into a fund run by a merchant called Amur Ishtar, who himself added four. The fund was to last four years, and the merchant was to collect a third of the profits—terms not dissimilar to a modern venture-capital fund.
The Phoenicians and later the Athenians took this sort of capitalism to sea with them, spreading similar organizations around the Mediterranean. The expense and time involved in maritime commerce made some type of formal arrangement even more necessary than its land-based equivalent. So did the ever-present