From the House of Medici to Japan, Inc., business and commerce have shaped society and public life. Eighteenth-century social theorists such as Montesquieu and Smith described the “civilizing” process of long-distance trade networks in agricultural staples and luxury goods in the transition from feudalism to commercialism. In the early 20th century, the U.S. was often seen as a nation where businesspeople, with their ambitions and innovations, had even come to define society. In 1931 James Truslow Adams characterized the United States as a “business civilization,” in which “most of the energy, ability, and ambition of the country has found its outlet, if not its satisfaction, in business.” More recently, with rising globalization and financialization, observers in many countries—Brazil, Germany, France, Japan, and China—have noted, with alarm or excitement, the role high-tech entrepreneurs and international bankers have played in shaping social norms and policy. In 2009 an economic summit in China explored the “Chinese approach to a new business civilization.” The theme of “civilizations” is meant to suggest broad connections between business and the way of life that characterizes particular regions or countries.
For additional information about the BHC annual meeting, please see the full call for papers.