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. Bill Gates has said that Sloan's 1964 management tome, My Years with General Motors, "is probably the best book to read if you want to read only one book about business." And if you want to read only one book about Sloan, that book should be historian David Farber's Sloan Rules.
Here, for the first time, is a study of both the difficult man and the pathbreaking executive. Sloan Rules reveals the GM genius as not only a driven manager of men, machines, money, and markets but also a passionate and not always wise participant in the great events of his day. Sloan, for example, reviled Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal; he firmly believed that politicians, government bureaucrats, and union leaders knew next to nothing about the workings of the new consumer economy, and he did his best to stop them from intervening in the private enterprise system. He was instrumental in transforming GM from the country's largest producer of cars into the mainstay of America's "Arsenal of Democracy" during World War II; after the war, he bet GM's future on renewed American prosperity and helped lead the country into a period of economic abundance. Through his business genius, his sometimes myopic social vision, and his vast fortune, Sloan was an architect of the corporate-dominated global society we live in today.
David Farber's story of America's first corporate genius is biography of the highest order, a portrait of an extraordinarily compelling and skillful man who shaped his era and ours.
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General Motors chairman Alfred P. Sloan was the ultimate organization man: he rose to the top of the auto industry after pioneers like Henry Ford built it, and then he transformed it with innovative management practices that today are studied and copied by business executives everywhere. In Sloan Rules, University of New Mexico historian David Farber describes how Sloan led his company to "economic greatness" between the 1920s and '40s, particularly by developing "a loose economic model in which highly rationalized corporate productivity combined with relentless marketing creates a mass consumer society that, in turn, produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people." Surprisingly little is known about Sloan's personal life--he was an intensely private man--but in this biography Farber provides a good overview of what made Sloan such an outstanding businessman. He also recounts Sloan's contentious relationship with Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "To Sloan, the New Deal was a raw deal." (At one point, the chairman even described the New Dealers as "ancient Asiatic despots.") Farber clearly wishes his subject had concerned himself more with social justice, but he also points out that Sloan's energy and creativity made it possible for a subsequent GM chairman to say, with some if not complete credibility, that what's good for GM is good for America. --John J. MillerAbout the Author:
David Farber is a professor of history at the University of New Mexico. His books include Chicago '68, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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