The Public Interest

The corporation and society in the 1970’s

Daniel Bell

Summer 1971

OVER the last few years, there has been a notable change in public attitudes toward the corporation. Only twelve years ago, writing in Edward S. Masons magisterial compendium on The Corporation in Modern Society, Eugene V. Rostow could comment:

In reviewing the literature about the current development of [the large, publicly-held] corporations, and about possible programs for their reform, one is struck by the atmosphere of relative peace. There seems to be no general conviction abroad that reform is needed. The vehement feelings of the early thirties, expressing a sense of betrayal and frustration at a depression blamed on twelve years of business leadership, are almost entirely absent.

The reason for that tolerant and even benign attitude towards the corporation in the 1950’s is not hard to find. Apart from the general sense of social peace induced by the Eisenhower administration (a peace maintained, in part, by the mobilization of the sentiments of society against an external enemy), a new and seemingly satisfactory conception of the role of the corporation in the society had arisen.

 

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