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The Corporation and the Twentieth Century
A definitive reframing of the economic, institutional, and intellectual history of the managerial era
A Foreign Affairs Best of Books. Finalist for the Hayek Book Prize, Manhattan Institute

Pianeta Libri news. Turin, June 22, 2024 – Richard N. Langlois' book The Corporation and the Twentieth Century: The History of American Business Enterprise explores the historical transformation of corporate structures in the United States, particularly focusing on the organizational transformation from entrepreneurial to managerial capitalism.

By learning from the past, corporate researchers can gain insights into the foundational principles and transformative moments that have shaped modern business practices. This can help in drawing parallels and contrasts with contemporary corporate strategies and research methodologies.

What has become a dominant narrative holds that administrative coordination by skilled professional managers is essential to the efficient management of both public and private organizations, yet if managerialism was the apotheosis of administrative efficiency, why were both its practice and the narrative that accompanied it in ruins by the end of the century? In his book Richard Langlois offers an alternative account: a thorough and nuanced reframing and reassessment of the economic, institutional, and intellectual history of the managerial era.

One of the focal points of Langlois' book is the role of innovation and adaptation in the survival and growth of corporations. This emphasis highlights the importance of continuous research and development within corporations. Researchers can draw lessons from past innovations and failures to inform future R&D strategies, ensuring that their organizations remain competitive and resilient.

Langlois argues that managerialist structures consolidated their dominance only because the century's great catastrophes, such as war, depression, and war again, displaced markets, disrupted relative prices, and weakened market-supporting institutions. By the end of the twentieth century, Langlois writes, these market-supporting institutions had reemerged to shift the advantage toward entrepreneurial and market-driven modes of organization.

Langlois examines the broader economic and social impacts of corporate activities. This holistic view encourages corporate researchers to consider not just the financial outcomes of their research, but also the social and ethical implications. Such an approach can lead to more socially responsible and sustainable business practices.

The book likely includes numerous case studies and empirical data that illustrate the successes and challenges faced by corporations. These real-world examples provide concrete data points and scenarios that researchers can analyze and learn from, enhancing the practical relevance of their own research.

Langlois' interdisciplinary approach, combining history, economics, and business studies, can inspire corporate researchers to adopt a more interdisciplinary methodology in their own work. This can lead to more comprehensive and nuanced research outcomes, integrating perspectives from different fields to tackle complex corporate issues.

The future of corporate structures can be anticipated by examining current trends and emerging models. Here’s an outline based on Langlois' insights and contemporary developments:

Historical Phases of Organizational Transformation

1. Entrepreneurial Capitalism

• Characteristics: Dominated by individual entrepreneurs who manage and control their enterprises directly. Decision-making is highly centralized.
• Focus: Innovation, risk-taking, and personal management of business operations.
• Examples: Early industrial enterprises, small businesses, and startups.

2. Managerial Capitalism

• Characteristics: Marked by the separation of ownership and control. Professional managers run the day-to-day operations of large corporations, while shareholders own the firms.
• Focus: Efficiency, economies of scale, and formalized management structures. Emphasis on strategic planning and bureaucratic control.
• Examples: Large corporations like General Motors, IBM, and other multinational companies during the mid-20th century.

Current and Emerging Trends

3. Financial Capitalism

• Characteristics: Characterized by the increasing influence of financial markets and institutions on corporate decision-making. Shareholder value becomes a primary focus.
• Focus: Maximizing shareholder value, mergers and acquisitions, and financial engineering. The rise of institutional investors plays a key role.
• Examples: Investment banks, private equity firms, and corporations with significant financial market interactions.

4. Platform Capitalism

• Characteristics: Driven by digital platforms that facilitate transactions between different groups (e.g., consumers and producers) and leverage network effects.
• Focus: Data-driven decision-making, scalability through digital platforms, and network effects. The business model often revolves around user data and platform ecosystems.
• Examples: Tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Uber.

Future Directions

5. Sustainable/Stakeholder Capitalism

• Characteristics: A shift towards considering the broader impact of business on society and the environment. This model emphasizes the importance of various stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the community.
• Focus: Long-term value creation, sustainability, social responsibility, and ethical practices. Balancing profit with purpose.
• Examples: Companies like Patagonia, Unilever, and firms adopting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria.

6. Adaptive/Agile Capitalism

• Characteristics: Emphasizes agility, adaptability, and continuous innovation in response to rapidly changing environments and technologies.
• Focus: Flexibility, rapid iteration, and responsiveness to market changes. Decentralized decision-making and empowering teams.
• Examples: Companies practicing agile methodologies and lean startup principles.

Emerging Models for the Future

1. Technological Integration
• Characteristics: Integration of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) into business operations.
• Focus: Enhanced efficiency, automation, and new business models driven by technology.
• Implications: Businesses will need to continuously innovate and adapt to maintain competitive advantage.

2. Collaborative and Open Innovation
• Characteristics: Increased collaboration across industries, academia, and startups to drive innovation.
• Focus: Leveraging external ideas and resources, open-source projects, and innovation ecosystems.
• Implications: Organizations will become more interconnected and reliant on external partnerships for growth and innovation.

3. Human-Centric and Inclusive Capitalism
• Characteristics: Prioritizing human welfare, inclusivity, and diversity within organizational practices.
• Focus: Creating equitable opportunities, promoting diversity, and ensuring well-being of all stakeholders.
• Implications: Corporate culture will evolve to be more inclusive and socially responsible.

4. Resilient and Crisis-Responsive Capitalism
• Characteristics: Building resilience against global crises such as pandemics, climate change, and economic instability.
• Focus: Robust risk management, sustainable supply chains, and adaptive business continuity planning.
• Implications: Organizations will invest in strategies to mitigate risks and enhance their capacity to respond to unforeseen challenges.


Looking forward, we can expect further transformations driven by technological advancements, societal expectations, and the need for sustainable and resilient business practices. These emerging models will likely shape the future landscape of corporate organization, emphasizing adaptability, inclusivity, and long-term value creation.

By Giovanni Paparo


The Corporation and the Twentieth Century
The History of American Business Enterprise

Richard N. Langlois
Series: The Princeton Economic History of the Western World
Price: $50.00/£42.00
ISBN: 97806911246987
Published (US): Jun 27, 2023
Published (UK): Aug 22, 2023
Pages: 816
Size: 6.13 x 9.25 in.

30% off with code PUP30
Sale Price: $35.00/£29.40
Price: $50.00/£42.00
ISBN: 9780691247526
Published: Jun 27, 2023
Copyright: 2023

22/06/2024 - 10.07.02

fonte: Giovanni Paparo giovapaparo@gmail.com

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