Presented by Financial Times and funded by the the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Compan, the Business Book of the Year Award, first presented in 2005, goes to the book that provides “the most compelling and enjoyable” insight into modern business issues as determined by a panel of academics, writers and business people.
Financial Times announced that Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case, If Then by Jill Lepore, No Filter by Sarah Frier, No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings, Reimagining Capitalism by Rebecca Henderson, and A World Without Work by Daniel Susskind, have been nominated for the Award. The winner will be announced on December 1st.
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case
Life expectancy in the United States has recently fallen for three years in a row–a reversal not seen since 1918 or in any other wealthy nation in modern times. In the past two decades, deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism have risen dramatically, and now claim hundreds of thousands of American lives each year–and they’re still rising. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, known for first sounding the alarm about deaths of despair, explain the overwhelming surge in these deaths and shed light on the social and economic forces that are making life harder for the working class. They demonstrate why, for those who used to prosper in America, capitalism is no longer delivering.
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism paints a troubling portrait of the American dream in decline. For the white working class, today’s America has become a land of broken families and few prospects. As the college educated become healthier and wealthier, adults without a degree are literally dying from pain and despair. In this critically important book, Case and Deaton tie the crisis to the weakening position of labor, the growing power of corporations, and, above all, to a rapacious health-care sector that redistributes working-class wages into the pockets of the wealthy. Capitalism, which over two centuries lifted countless people out of poverty, is now destroying the lives of blue-collar America.
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If Then by Jill Lepore
Founded in 1959 by some of the nation’s leading social scientists, the Simulmatics Corporation proposed to predict and manipulate the future by way of the computer simulation of human behavior. In summers, with their wives and children in tow, the company’s scientists met on the beach in Long Island under a geodesic, honeycombed dome, where they built a “People Machine” that aimed to model everything from buying a dishwasher to counterinsurgency to casting a vote. Deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Washington, Cambridge, and even Saigon, Simulmatics’ clients included the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign, the New York Times, the Department of Defense, and dozens of major manufacturers: Simulmatics had a hand in everything from political races to the Vietnam War to the Johnson administration’s ill-fated attempt to predict race riots. The company’s collapse was almost as rapid as its ascent. Exposed for false claims, and even accused of war crimes, it closed its doors in 1970 and all but vanished. Until Lepore came across the records of its remains.
The scientists of Simulmatics believed they had invented “the A-bomb of the social sciences.” They did not predict that it would take decades to detonate, like a long-buried grenade. But, in the early years of the twenty-first century, that bomb did detonate, creating a world in which corporations collect data and model behavior and target messages about the most ordinary of decisions, leaving people all over the world, long before the global pandemic, crushed by feelings of helplessness. This history has a past; If Then is its cautionary tale.
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier
In 2010, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger released a photo-sharing app called Instagram, with one simple but irresistible feature: it would make anything you captured through your phone look more beautiful. In less than two years, it caught Facebook’s attention: Mark Zuckerberg bought the company for a historic $1 billion when Instagram was just 13 employees.
That might have been the end of a classic success story. But the cofounders stayed on, trying to maintain Instagram’s beauty, brand, and cachet, considering their app a separate company within the social networking giant. They urged their employees to make changes only when necessary, resisting Facebook’s grow-at-all-costs philosophy in favor of a strategy that highlighted creativity and celebrity. Just as Instagram was about to reach 1 billion users, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg—once supportive of the founders’ autonomy—began to feel threatened by Instagram’s success.
At its heart, No Filter is a human story, as Sarah Frier uncovers how the company’s decisions have fundamentally changed how we interact with the world around us. Frier draws on unprecedented exclusive access—from the founders of Instagram, as well as employees, executives, and competitors; Anna Wintour of Vogue; Kris Jenner of the Kardashian-Jenner empire; and a plethora of influencers, from fashionistas with millions of followers to owners of famous dogs worldwide—to show how Instagram has fundamentally changed the way we shop, eat, travel, and communicate, all while fighting to preserve the values which contributed to the company’s success.
No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings
There has never before been a company like Netflix. It has led nothing short of a revolution in the entertainment industries, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue while capturing the imaginations of hundreds of millions of people in over 190 countries. But to reach these great heights, Netflix, which launched in 1998 as an online DVD rental service, has had to reinvent itself over and over again. This type of unprecedented flexibility would have been impossible without the counterintuitive and radical management principles that cofounder Reed Hastings established from the very beginning. Hastings rejected the conventional wisdom under which other companies operate and defied tradition to instead build a culture focused on freedom and responsibility, one that has allowed Netflix to adapt and innovate as the needs of its members and the world have simultaneously transformed.
Here for the first time, Hastings and Erin Meyer, one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, dive deep into the controversial ideologies at the heart of the Netflix psyche, which have generated results that are the envy of the business world.
Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson
Free market capitalism is one of humanity’s greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilizing society as wealth rushes to the top. The time for action is running short.
Rebecca Henderson’s rigorous research in economics, psychology, and organizational behavior, as well as her many years of work with companies around the world, gives us a path forward. She debunks the worldview that the only purpose of business is to make money and maximize shareholder value. She shows that we have failed to reimagine capitalism so that it is not only an engine of prosperity but also a system that is in harmony with environmental realities, striving for social justice and the demands of truly democratic institutions.
A World Without Work by Daniel Susskind
From mechanical looms to the first computers, new technologies have always provoked panic about workers being replaced by machines. For centuries, such fears have been misplaced, and many economists maintain that they remain so today. But as Daniel Susskind demonstrates, this time really is different. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence mean that all kinds of jobs are increasingly at risk.
Drawing on almost a decade of research in the field, Susskind argues that machines no longer need to think like us in order to outperform us, as was once widely believed. As a result, more and more tasks that used to be far beyond the capability of computers – from diagnosing illnesses to drafting legal contracts, from writing news reports to composing music – are coming within their reach. This is not necessarily a bad thing, Technological progress could solve one of humanity’s oldest problems: how to make sure that everyone has enough to live on. Perceptive, pragmatic, and ultimately hopeful, A World Without Work shows the way.