Abstract: Constructing Business, Constructing Utopia: Historical Perspectives
In 1924, King C. Gillette, millionaire president of the Gillette Safety Razor Company, published The People's Corporation, a final volume in the utopian vision that had consumed him for thirty years. How should historians reconcile the Gillette who was a savvy entrepreneur, shrewd marketer, and successful capitalist with the visionary who indulged in quixotic plans for monolithic cities and singular "world corporations"? I argue that the reconciliation is not difficult. Business activity is a crucial form of social action, and, like all social action, is framed by a vision of the future. By comparing business and utopian writings, I demonstrate that the corporation's attempt to create a unified institutional voice mirrors the utopian attempt to bridge the gap between subjective/symbolic and objective/instrumental communication. Business writing successfully unifies the two extremes, showing that the mundane world of business and the quixotic world of utopia are integral parts of the same experience.