Redefining the way we view business success, Pamela Laird demolishes the popular American self-made story as she exposes the social dynamics that navigate some people toward opportunity and steer others away. Who gets invited into the networks of business opportunity? What does an unacceptable candidate lack? The answer is social capital—all those social assets that attract respect, generate confidence, evoke affection, and invite loyalty.
In retelling success stories from Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates, Laird goes beyond personality, upbringing, and social skills to reveal the critical common key—access to circles that control and distribute opportunity and information. She explains how civil rights activism and feminism in the 1960s and 1970s helped demonstrate that personnel practices violated principles of equal opportunity. She evaluates what social privilege actually contributes to business success, and analyzes the balance between individual characteristics—effort, innovation, talent—and social factors such as race, gender, class, and connections.
In contrasting how Americans have prospered—or not—with how we have talked about prospering, Laird offers rich insights into how business really operates and where its workings fit within American culture. From new perspectives on entrepreneurial achievement to the role of affirmative action and the operation of modern corporate personnel systems, Pull shows that business is a profoundly social process, and that no one can succeed alone.
Laird offers an illuminating analysis of how exceptional achievers have combined individual talent with social assets…to rise in society.
[A] highly readable appraisal of the social dynamics that navigate some Americans towards opportunity while steering others away… Pamela Laird has written an important book about the social forces that have blocked individual endeavour.
Laird’s historical perspective yields fresh insights into the history of American business practices and offers an original perspective on the challenges made by feminism and civil rights in the last decades of the twentieth century.
Laird provides a comprehensive perspective and rich historical insight into the importance of social dynamics in achieving career success. She retells the success stories of famous Americans ranging from Horatio Alger, Benjamin Franklin, and Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates and beyond to make the point that none were simply ‘self-made men.’
This eye-opening book helps explains why so many individuals—and nearly all African Americans and women—were so long left out when they exhibited the same intelligence and ambition as those who ‘made it.’ In emphasizing the social forces that blocked pathways up, in addition to those which held people down, Laird presents an exciting new way to think about success.
A bold, ambitious, and important book. Laird shows that the key to understanding how people succeed is social capital—the networks, mentors, role models, manners, connections, and understanding of codes of behavior that enable some Americans but not others to advance.
- 2006, Winner of the Hagley Prize in Business History
- 464 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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