Cover of the first edition
|Author||William H. Whyte|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
While employed by Fortune Magazine, Whyte did extensive interviews with the CEOs of major American corporations such as General Electric and Ford. A central tenet of the book is that average Americans subscribed to a collectivist ethic rather than to the prevailing notion of rugged individualism. A key point made was that people became convinced that organizations and groups could make better decisions than individuals, and thus serving an organization became logically preferable to advancing one's individual creativity. Whyte felt this was counterfactual and listed a number of examples of how individual work and creativity can produce better outcomes than collectivist processes. He observed that this system led to risk-averse executives who faced no consequences and could expect jobs for life as long as they made no egregious missteps. He also thought that everyone should have more freedom.
Whyte's book led to deeper examinations of the concept of "commitment" and "loyalty" within corporations. Whyte's book matched the fiction best seller of the period, The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit (1955) by Sloan Wilson in inspiring criticism that those Americans motivated to win World War II returned to ostensibly less-meaningful lives. Marxist theorist Guy Debord discusses Whyte's observations in The Society of the Spectacle (1967).