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From the standpoint of managers and workers, the giant company is not merely a place in which men earn their living. It is a complex environment in which they spend most of their lives, and they expect more from it than a salary or wage.

They want freedom and justice from big business and a sense of personal identity in a mass society where the individual is made to feel weak and isolated at every turn. In return they are expected to pledge their loyalty to the company . This is particularly true of upper-level managers for whom complete domination by the organization's personality is probably the single most important qualification for holding office. The modern company aspires to the status of a social institution, on the level of the church, family, and territorial community, in its efforts to gain the allegiance of men.

The large company also influences UK society through what Max Lerner calls "the reach of the business spirit."

This spirit is exemplified by the principle of action upon which business is based-market sale for a profit. This principle has become applied in an increasing number of noneconomic areas of life. Erich Fromm has described the marketing orientation toward life, which looks upon even such activities as marriage in terms of a process of exchange in which each individual attempts to maximize what he or she "can get in the market." The values and goals associated with success in big business-prestige, money, power, security-have become the most important common denominators in evaluating individual performance in all areas of UK life.

Change in the role of the company in society is seen most clearly in the new functions it has taken on. The prime function of the company is still economic-to produce and distribute goods and services. But the company is something more than an economic entity. It is a political organization because of the great power it possesses, and it is a welfare institution because of its influence on individual and social welfare.

The company is also a social institution because the cooperative efforts of many people with different interests are necessary to carry on its operations, and it is a cultural entity since its activities occur within a framework of commonly shared beliefs about how people should behave. In each of these areas the company performs noneconomic functions:

1 Political functions: generally considered to be the responsibility of government, such as the making of foreign policy by international oil companies

2 Welfare functions: to further individual and public welfare, such as corporate donations to help finance private colleges, and the loaning of executives for charitable and civic betterment programs in the community

3 Social functions: which meet a need of society, such as the provision of a social status based on occupation for workers and managers

4 Cultural functions: which influence the beliefs, values, and goals of the members of society; for example, the application of the criteria of success in business to non-business areas of life

Thus the corporate revolution did more than merely expand the size of business enterprise; it transformed the basic character of UK business. The earliest corporations were mainly legal devices to facilitate the private business transactions of individuals. The modern large company still serves this purpose but now it is something more: It is the prime agency for organizing our economic and social life. In a business-oriented civilization like ours in which the economic aspects of life are in the forefront, this is tantamount to saying that the company is the key social institution.

We now have a "corporate system" which is as important in our industrial era as the feudal system was in the agrarian Middle Ages.


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