The Newberry Library Seminar on Technology, Politics, and Culture
Co-sponsored by the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Northwestern University's School of Communications
Friday, October 20, 2006, 3:30–5:00 p.m.
The Book-of-the-Month Club: A Reconsideration
Daniel Raff, University of Pennsylvania
The Book-of-the-Month Club, which was founded in 1926, was once among the most prominent of American corporations, a powerful force in its own line of business and conspicuous enough to the general public to have been a subject for cartoons in the New Yorker. It also represented an innovative business model of considerable Coasean interest. Most of the academic literature about it, however, is written by Cultural Studies academics and concerns the development of twentieth-century American middle-class culture. In this paper, I attempt to bring the company’s strategic and business history into better focus, reconstructing the economic logic and evolving results. I do this mobilizing the approach to studying business history and strategy experience more generally sketched in the papers by Lamoreaux, Raff, and Temin in the American Historical Review 2003 and Enterprise and Society 2004. The issues that arise in the course of this have striking contemporary resonance.
All papers are pre-circulated electronically to those who plan to attend the seminar in person. For a copy of the paper, e-mail Jenny Fink at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 312-255-3524.
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