This book is a collection of informed observations on the current American business scene. Part I was originally published as the Winter 1969 issue of Daedalus; Part II, however, contains both a new Preface and eight essays written during 1970-1971 which expand or illustrate themes that emerged from the earlier papers.
The first part of the book presents the views of a number of scholars and scholarly journalists on the role of American business, focusing particularly on its responsibility in a time of deepening social crisis. Several themes are apparent: a consensus that private business will increasingly supply many of the physical goods and services previously obtained from public sources, and that the profit motive (tempered by social responsibility) will remain a primary force in American business; a general concern with the impact of accelerating technology and with the need for more comprehensive planning; a recognition of the increasing role of American business abroad and the problematic relationship of large U.S. firms to the sovereignty of foreign governments; and a noticeable fear that some sort of "corporate fascism" will develop from corporate involvement in the work of government and society, coupled with an apprehension that once a level of affluence is attained disaffection with the pressures and consequences of industrialization will swell the ranks of those who criticize or openly reject business as a way of life.
In Part II, the editors have asked businessmen to explain how they see American business life evolving—is the modern business manager able to meet pressing social challenges? The majority of the authors feel that big corporations are making a reasonable response to these problems "while admittedly groping for the best resolution to the conflict between social responsibility and traditional purely economic objectives."