“Duff McDonald’s The Golden Passport is a magisterial history of Harvard Business School and much more. It provides a powerful lens into the intellectual underpinnings and pragmatic failures of American business and American capitalism writ large.”
Exploring how Harvard Business School became a ticket to the highest echelons of money, power, and influence, McDonald (The Firm) chronicles the school’s history in an irreverent, cynical, and frequently funny exposé of its pretensions. He begins by describing the school’s founding in 1908 to, in one professor’s words, raise “the oldest of the arts” into the “youngest of the professions.” Despite these high-minded words, McDonald explains that HBS was launched largely to provide a credential for business-destined blue bloods who required the prestige of a Harvard degree. HBS eventually matured, but McDonald deftly skewers the vacuity at the core of the MBA curriculum, lamenting “how many members of a highly intelligent faculty have to resort to bold claims of discovering that which we already knew.” He also questions why the school doesn’t do more to shape the ethics of business, devoting chapters to ignominious graduates like Jeffrey Skilling of Enron and to the growing gap between the pay of ordinary workers and CEOs. This institutional history refreshingly substitutes skepticism for reverence, questioning the limits of business education and of capitalism in general.
The Golden Passport is a tour-de-force about one of our nation’s most important and enduring symbols of capitalism. Whether you aspire to attend Harvard Business School or you disdain it for its disproportionate influence on Wall Street and in the executive suites of our major corporations, McDonald’s investigative-reporting masterpiece is a must read.
“Duff McDonald’s The Golden Passport is the detailed story of Harvard Business School (HBS) that, willingly marinated in corporate money and influence, prepares each generation of “modern” corporate tycoons. HBS, while alert to shaping the latest management techniques, is largely indifferent to the ongoing corporate crime wave and other criminogenic behavior and externalities corrosive of fundamental civic values and economic equities. Readers can bury their noses in this prodigious tome and come away with a stench of affluent decadence.”
“The Golden Passport isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) time that pointed criticism has been aimed at the Harvard Business School, but it is certainly the most thorough to date. The story McDonald tells isn’t a simplistic one. Rather, he argues that the analytical modus operandi of Harvard-trained MBAs has damaged not just particular companies, but the very fabric of society itself. It’s a convincing and important call for change.”