Synopses & Reviews
Company town: The very phrase sounds un-American. Yet company towns are the essence of America. Hershey bars, Corning glassware, Kohler bathroom fixtures, Maytag washers, Spam—each is the signature product of a company town in which one business, for better or worse, exercises a grip over the population. In The Company Town, Hardy Green, who has covered American business for over a decade, offers a compelling analysis of the emergence of these communities and their role in shaping the American economy, beginning in the country’s earliest years. From the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, to the R&D labs of Corning, New York; from the coal mines of Ludlow, Colorado, to corporate campuses of today’s major tech companies: America has been uniquely open to the development of the single-company community. But rather than adhering to a uniform blueprint, American company towns represent two very different strands of capitalism. One is socially benign—a paternalistic, utopian ideal that fosters the development of schools, hospitals, parks, and desirable housing for its workers. The other, “Exploitationville,” focuses only on profits, at the expense of employees’ well-being. Adeptly distinguishing between these two models, Green offers rich stories about town-builders and workers. He vividly describes the origins of America’s company towns, the living and working conditions that characterize them, and the violent, sometimes fatal labor confrontations that have punctuated their existence. And he chronicles the surprising transformation underway in many such communities today. With fascinating profiles of American moguls—from candyman Milton Hershey and steel man Elbert H. Gary to oil tycoon Frank Phillips and Manhattan Project czar General Leslie B. Groves—The Company Town is a sweeping tale of how the American economy has grown and changed, and how these urban centers have reflected the best and worst of American capitalism.
“A bright history of a quintessentially American place…. A solid addition to the business shelf.”
Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
“The company town had a unique role in American society. Hardy Green takes us into forgotten corners of our history and makes us glad the days of the company town are over. As entertaining as it is edifying.”
A bright history of a quintessentially American place.... A solid addition to the business shelf."
Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
The company town had a unique role in American society. Hardy Green takes us into forgotten corners of our history and makes us glad the days of the company town are over. As entertaining as it is edifying.”
Greg Grandin, author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
The clash between the ideal of political freedom and the reality of extreme economic dependence on corporations is nowhere more stark than in the history of the American company town. From the now-rusted industrial cities on the hills to todays Google server farms in the forests, Hardy Green captures the conundrum between the public good and private power in his elegant, insightful, and potent book.”
Wall Street Journal
"Taking in textile, coal, oil, lumber and appliance-manufacturing towns, Mr. Greens survey is a useful one.... [T]he company towns overseen by Milton Hershey, Francis Cabot Lowell and even Charlie Cannon were communities enlivened by quirks and passions and idiosyncratic visions. Edens? Hardly. But they had soul, and you can neither buy nor sell that at the company store."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[Greens] descriptions of the harsh working conditions and the rise of labor unions is labor history at its finest.... The mining towns of Appalachia and Colorado were decidedly exploitive.... Out of this misery rose unions, collective bargaining and the 40-hour workweek. This important chapter in our nations labor history showcases Green at his best, connecting the dots and writing with verve and authority."
For those interested in the dynamics of the American workplace, Hardy Greens book is an excellent primer.”
In The Company Town, Hardy Green offers a mixed portrait of the cities and towns that bear the names of the captains of capitalism who created them.... In essence, he outlines the central question of American capitalism: Does the company exist for the workers or do the workers exist for the company?”
New York Times
Mr. Green sprints — at times breathlessly — through all kinds of company towns, mostly past but some present.... He uses these accounts, in tandem with a clean, engaging voice, to tell story upon story.... Mr. Green has amassed a collection of important, well-told stories about the contradictions, inequities and possibilities of American capitalism.”
[A] delightful book.”
[S]eriously conceived, breezily written.... His historical cases studies are instructive
. Green is skilled at sketching complexities with relative compactness.”
New York Journal of Books
[Branko Milanovic] has fun with economics.... Behind the fun are some serious concerns about growing global income inequality.... And underlying the fun facts is a prodigious amount of research: everything from demographic patterns in 13th century Paris to interest rates in ancient Rome.”
[A]n innovative look at price and consumption differences.... Students, practitioners, and anyone interested in economics and the issue of inequality would enjoy this.”
Booklist, starred review
Milanovic defies the typical image of an economist by presenting research overlaid with humor, literary insights, and fully imagined portraits of daily life as he examines inequality across time and continents.... Milanovic writes as much like a philosopher as an economist as he ponders the growing trend of inequality in income around the world and answers questions many readers likely ask themselves about their economic prospects.”
[A] timely look at the inequality of income and wealth.... Authoritative.”
Simon Johnson, Professor at MIT Sloan and co-author of the national bestseller 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown
A brilliant tour through inequality, writ large and small, across the ages. Economics is often considered as dismal and you may not be cheered up by what has been regarded as an acceptable distribution of income in the past (and what may be coming to our future). But The Haves and the Have-Nots is far from being a dismal book — it is entertaining, draws you in, and makes you think; this is the right way to draw attention to the substantive issues. Enrollments in economics courses would rise sharply if more writers followed Branko Milanovics lead.”
Moisés Naím, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
This is one of the most entertaining and original books you can read on a hot-button subject that will increasingly dominate the conversations in homes and government offices around the world. Economic inequality has always been part of the human experience and Branko Milanovic masterfully explains why it is still with us and why politicians, policy makers and the public are so often allured by policies that deepen inequality instead of reducing it. A delightful read!”
James K. Galbraith, author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
Charming, erudite, curious and deeply informed about every aspect of economic inequality. Branko Milanovic takes us on a tour from Austen to Tolstoy, from ancient Rome to modern Brazil via the late Soviet Union. He explores almost all the ways of thinking about inequality that there are. And he makes it seem easy, which it definitely is not.”
Angus Deaton, Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Princeton University, 2009 President of the American Economic Association, author of The Analysis of Household Surveys: A Microeconometric Approach to Development Policy
Where do you rank in the all-time world distribution of income? How about Jane Austens Mr. Darcy? Or Anna Karenina? Was Octavian Augustus richer than Bill Gates? Why might China fall apart, like the USSR and Yugoslavia? Why should we care about differences in income and wealth? In this book of many delights, Branko Milanovic, who has spent 25 years studying global inequality, provides us with a veritable Arabian Nights of stories about inequality, drawing from history, literature, and everywhere in the world. A pleasure to read, and an eye-opener for haves and for have-nots alike.”
Thomas Pogge, Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University, author of World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms
Learn about the serious subject of economic inequality while you have plenty of fun traveling around the globe and far back in time! Through fascinating stories and wonderful illustrations, Branko Milanovic explains income and wealth inequality — their concepts, measurement, evolution, and role in human life — without compromising precision or balance. This is a delightful book, as commendable for vacations as for the classroom.”
The Journal of American History
[The Company Town] is well written and summarizes the histories of past and present industrial towns nicely.... [A]s a synthesis and exploration of what owners and managers try to build into their manufacturing and community-building experiments, what seems to work, what does not, and why, Greens book cannot be beat.”
The fascinating story of the development of American capitalismfor better and worsethrough the history of the company town
At once a riveting history, a stark social commentary, and an insightful tale of how business works (and how it should work), "The Company Town" is the story of the shaping of modern American capitalism. b&w photos.
A collection of important, well-told stories about the contradictions, inequities and possibilities of American capitalism.”New York Times
Company town: the very phrase sounds un-American. Yet company towns are the essence of America. Hershey bars, Corning glassware, Kohler bathroom fixtures, Maytag washers, Spameach is the signature product of a company town in which one business, for better or for worse, exercises a grip over the population. In The Company Town, Hardy Green, who has covered American business for over a decade, describes the emergence of these communities and their role in shaping the American economy since the countrys earliest years. But rather than adhering to a uniform blueprint, American company towns have come to represent two very different strands of capitalism: one humanistic, the other exploitative. Through the framework of this dichotomy, Green provides a compelling analysis of the effect of the company town on the development of American capitalism, and tells the sweeping tale of how the American economy has grown and changed over the years.
About the Author
Hardy Green is a former Associate Editor at BusinessWeek, where he was responsible for the magazines book review coverage. He still writes regularly about the book publishing industry, and has published features on travel, investing, business history, technology, and careers. He is also the author of the academic history On Strike at Hormel: The Struggle for a Democratic Labor Movement. Green has taught history at New Yorks School of Visual Arts and Stony Brook University, from which he holds a PhD in US History. He blogs at hardygreen.com, and lives in New York City.