Territories of Profit: Communications, Capitalist Development, and the Innovative Enterprises of G.F. Swift and Dell Computer

Territories of Profit: Communications, Capitalist Development, and the Innovative Enterprises of G.F. Swift and Dell Computer

Territories of Profit: Communications, Capitalist Development, and the Innovative Enterprises of G.F. Swift and Dell Computer

Territories of Profit: Communications, Capitalist Development, and the Innovative Enterprises of G.F. Swift and Dell Computer

Excerpt

This study began as an effort to uncover historical analogies to Internet commerce. In the course of its development, it established two parallel worlds, one occurring in the late nineteenth century, marked by the railroad and telegraph revolution, the other occurring during the final years of the twentieth century, marked by the ascendancy of the Internet. Two business firms, G. F. Swift and Dell Computer, eventually emerged as the protagonists of these dual universes and became the focus of the research for this study.

One of the primary aims in setting up this comparison and examining the impacts of a previous communication revolution was to temper some of the exaggerated claims, rampant when research for this book was undertaken, about the uniqueness of the Internet and the so-called information age. There is no denying this uniqueness, but in the absence of a serious look back in time, such claims are historically static with little insight into what is actually new. Perhaps more importantly, however, this study set out to challenge a far more dubious set of principles being formulated in academic, policy, and business circles on the convergence of Internet communication, perfect markets, nonhierarchical organizations, and innovation. By supposedly equalizing access to information, Internet technology, we were told, was not only converging with more perfectly efficient markets. The Internet was promoting a more innovative economy, less hierarchical business organizations contracting as equals through the price system, and a recession-resistant pattern of capitalist development different from the past. Challenges to these conceits form the threads of this study. The lessons to be learned from Territories of Profit are threefold: first, while the Internet is unique, its impacts on innovation and profit making of business users are intelligible only as part of a much broader historical revolution in communications; second, innovation driving capitalist development is not something that occurs through established markets and the price system but is instead the outcome of firms creating organizations and using mechanisms of power strategically in pursuit of profit; and third, in pursuing this mission of . . .

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