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Eminent Corporations: The Rise and Fall of the Great British Brands [Paperback]

Andrew Simms , David Boyle
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Sep 2010
How much do you know about the big-name brands we live by? Virgin, BP, Land Rover, Barclays, Cadbury's, BBC and M&S. In our times the PLCs have been seen as giants, the backbone of commerce and society. Yet seen through a historical perspective they are vulnerable creatures, flowering only briefly. In fact, on the Fortune 500 - a roll-call of power if ever there was one - there's just one company, General Electric, which was on the list half a century ago. The rest have gone: broken, bankrupt, merged, raided for their parts. More like mayflies than megacorps. And getting more fragile all the time. The great corporations that now dominate our lives are treated by the law courts as if they were people. They have the same rights, but unlike us they have no emotions, morals or life histories. The only corporate biographies you find are celebratory, promotional portraits with the warts left out. So, we don't really know where most great brands came from or where they are going. This book spills the beans by telling the real life stories of some of the biggest corporate names, and finds them as dramatic, flawed and revealing as any human biography.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (23 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849010498
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849010498
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I wish this book had been available when we made the very bad mistake of becoming a public company, it is the antithesis of becoming a human company. It confirms my belief that closing down The Harvard Business School would be doing a service to mankind.... --Gordon Roddick, Head of Body Shop and winner of the Observer Ethical Awards Lifetime Achievement Award

If you want to understand why we're paying the price for decades of economic folly, read this book. The chapter on BP alone is worth it. If you want to ensure that we don t repeat the mistakes of the past, read this book. In these extraordinary tales, Andrew Simms and David Boyle point the way forward, revealing how enterprise can become more socially and environmentally useful. --Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party

This book is the essential guide to what went wrong with British business. From BP to Cadbury and Virgin - oil and chocolate to almost anything - these tragi-comic tales reveal how our own fates have become linked to the rise and fall of massive corporations. --Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, The Guardian

About the Author

Andrew Simms is Policy Director of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and a board member of Greenpeace UK. He is the author of the hugely successful Tescopoly and Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth? David Boyle is a fellow of NEF and the author of a series of books about history, social change and the future, including Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life, The Tyranny of Numbers and The Sum of Our Discontent. Funny Money: In search of alternative cash launched the time banks movement in the UK.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge fun for anyone interested in business 23 Oct 2010
By William Cohen VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm familiar with Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians, and when I read it I liked it because it was so rude and cutting about characters who were regarded as saints by the Victorians. The authors of this book have got into the same spirit in their account of the men who grace the City pages of the national newspapers. They tell the story with a sense of humour - chapter titles like 'The Euthanasia of Captain Mainwaring' and a stylish turn of phrase, 'Being the British Government, trained in the art of taking no action for decades at a time...'

Having been to a public school, I always thought the East India Company was something rather wonderful. But the truth is rather horrible. Having been to Oxford, organisations like BP, BZW and the BBC, were the proper destinations for the young elite, but again the truth is that their size makes them appear to be something they're not.

Simms and Boyle demolish corporate pretentions with gossipy asides and irreverent details. Cyril Connolly said of Eminent Victorians, it was a guilty pleasure, you kept wanting to creep back and read some more, like a child helping himself to forbidden spoonfuls of jam. This book is just like that, and more, because it ends up with an impassioned anti-corporate treatise arguing for human-scale organisations, which give employees a say. Human beings crave meaning as well as money, and 'history' is very important in the creation of purposeful businesses.

The catastrophe of the First World War was Strachey's motivation, the meltdown of 2008 has provided the authors with the material to demolish widely-accepted myths. I hope the BBC encourages the authors to make a documentary of the book! But I shan't hold my breath.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 1 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hugely disappointing - the book falls between multiple stools, occasionally taking on the role of a generic critic of contemporary capitalism, then returning to a factual history of the company in question. There is a frustrating lack of detail in several of the company histories (M&S and BP particularly come to mind)and the anti-capitalist commentaries often distract from more interesting (and frequently more damning) factual accounts. I have read far richer company histories or profiles and more effective polemics against the wrongs of modern businesses. The overall feeling on finishing the book is one of randomness - minimal connections between the companies covered and a strange mish-mash of content and commentary.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminent Corporations 10 Nov 2010
We have all begun to view our 'national' companies in a new light recently, given the change of economics. This book opened my eyes to the historic context and made me understand the companies better. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, as well as being educated by it.
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