THE AGE OF HERETICS by Art Kleiner

THE AGE OF HERETICS

Heroes, Outlaws, and the Forerunners of Corporate Change
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A slick, selective, and provocative history of postWW II management from a New Age missionary who makes no secret of his commitment to the arguable notion that corporations exist to change the world--for the better. In his engagingly digressive chronicle, Kleiner (co-editor of News That Stayed News: Ten Years of CoEvolution Quarterly, 1986) focuses on the square pegs and odd ducks who wanted to reform rather than repudiate the commercial concerns or institutions that employed them. Among those whose ideas eventually made at least some difference, he singles out Douglas McGregor and other academics, consultants, and executives influenced by the group- dynamics canon of National Training Labs (the originator of T- Groups, which encourage lower-echelon personnel to participate in workplace decisions). He goes on to recount how Saul Alinsky unleashed activist shareholders against Eastman Kodak in 1967; the resultant movement has provided a platform for hosts of agitators, ranging from church investors and Ralph Nader to Leon Sullivan. On the right, the author observes, economist Milton Friedman helped make a name for himself by insisting that the only social responsibility of business was to increase profits. In the meantime, Kleiner reports, Stanford Research Institute scholars were conducting serious experiments on the performance-enhancing properties of LSD, and NTL held symposia and other gatherings with Esalen Institute, a series of encounters that hastened on-the-job programs addressing gender and race issues. Covered as well are such counterculture entrepreneurs as the millenarian planners at Royal Dutch Shell, establishment moles who, in one memorable scenario, asserted: ``The future cannot be predicted; it can only be seen.'' A welcome if offbeat contribution to corporate literature, one that examines the communitarian possibilities of large multinational organizations rather than their presumptive failings and deficiencies.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-41576-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1996