Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism.

Author:Wunder, Timothy A.
Position:Book Review

Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism, by Charles Perrow. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. 2002. Paper, ISBN 0691123152, $18.95. 259 pages.

We live in a nation where large corporations control the majority of economic activity and where one-half of all manufacturing activities occur within companies that are considered to be oligopolies. Globalization is spreading this system worldwide, and the masters of corporations are grafting this system onto existing networks of control so that corporate power becomes the central power. Many people question the efficacy of such a system, yet to most such a system seems inevitable. In Organizing America Charles Perrow demonstrates that such a system of corporate control was not inevitable within the United States but rather it was the result of individual interests and organizational power.

The central component of the book is an exploration of the manner in which corporate power came to dominate the U.S. economic landscape and to suggest that such a corporation-dominated landscape was in no way inevitable. The book argues that capitalism as a system need not be organized around large institutions with huge amounts of centralized power; rather, the size and amount of power corporations have is a separate issue from capitalism. Large organizations exist outside of and separate from the capitalist system as is seen by the existence of the Catholic church. Perrow argues quite persuasively that the rise of large corporate structures was the result of multiple influences that were unique to the United States. Most important, Perrow argues that the biggest influence was a motivated group of people within the organizations pushing to achieve the corporate structure we now have.

Perrow looks at other theories that have been used to explain the rise of U.S. corporate power and integrates those theories into his explanation. He argues that there was a combination of multiple influences including technology, leadership, political conditions, political power, class, labor issues, and institutional structures that led to the corporate form which we now have. The combination of all these influences adds up to what the book calls "a society of organizations theory" of the rise of corporate powers.

Organizing America explores the rise of the corporate form within the United States through the use of empirical studies of two industries, textiles and the railroad...

To continue reading