Friday, March 25, 2005

Book Recommendation - The Company

Contemplating a start-up has me thinking about the building blocks, including what form the organization should take.

We think of companies as being something pretty obvious, but the modern conception of a company can be traced back to pre-Industrial Revolution Britain. The impact they have had has been enormous.

"The Company - A Short History Of A Revolutionary Idea" is an enjoyable and brief overview of how the idea for joint-stock companies came about, and the impact they have had since their invention.

The authors take a light and fast paced trip through history, leaving the reader with the opportunity to learn more if interested, with extensive footnotes and an extensive bibliography.

The chapters covering the modern period examine the issues that companies present society:

  • Do companies have an obligation to support the communities they operate within? This is often referred to as CSR or corporate social responsibility.
  • Do companies owe their primary duty to stakeholders? And are those stakeholders the shareholders, managers, or customers?
  • Do companies have too much power? Are they the cause or the effect of globalization?
Such meaty topics do not allow much more than a cursory treatment in a book covering so much history, but it does get one thinking.

Highly recommended.

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