The man who built GM

May 19, 2009
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jacket imageReuters reported Monday evening that “after 100 years in business and 10 months of frenzied but failed restructuring,” General Motors is “weeks from the bankruptcy filing experts say will be required to complete the Obama administration’s bid to reshape a fallen icon of American industry.”
Understandably, the uncertain climate has given rise to nostalgia for the man who made the company such an icon. Alfred P. Sloan Jr. became the president of General Motors in 1923 and stepped down as its CEO in 1946. During this time, he led GM past the Ford Motor Company and on to international business triumph by virtue of his brilliant managerial practices and his insights into the new consumer economy he and GM helped to produce.
With that economy—and GM itself—now on shakier footing, David Farber’s Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors offers an instructive explanation of the strengths of our corporate-based economic system and the weaknesses of our corporate-influenced politics.
And in this interview, Farber offers a taste of the many ways in which Sloan’s life can help us think about not only the economy, but also “about American public life and the shape of democracy in the United States.”

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