Vincent Bonin, writing in Institutions by Artists (2012), argues that corporations ‘hijacked the project of emancipation of the 1960s’ and ‘neutralized their adversaries’ by ‘allowing their employees a certain amount of self-determination in the organization of their work’. But, in fact, the DNA of the information-age corporation can be found in that appetite for emancipation. At a certain point, the idealists of yore decided that government was the problem and corporations were the site of revolutionary potential.
The Schumpeterian corporation did to business what the doctrine of Blitzkrieg would do to warfare in 1939: move humans at the speed of technology instead of moving technology at the speed of humans. Steam power used the coal trust fund (and later, oil) to fundamentally speed up human events and decouple them from the constraints of limited forms of energy such as the wind or human muscles. Blitzkrieg allowed armies to roar ahead at 30-40 miles per hour instead of marching at 5 miles per hour. Blitzeconomics allowed the global economy to roar ahead at 8% annual growth rates instead of the theoretical 0% average across the world for Mercantilist zero-sum economics. “Progress” had begun.
Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.
The biggest economic advances often arise not from boom industries garnering big VC paydays, but from the support businesses that sprout along the periphery to exploit the boom. They fasten on to major economic trendlines the way that fungi, moss, and lichen exploit trees.