THE DIVINE RIGHT OF CAPITAL: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy

Marjorie Kelly, Author . Berrett-Koehler $24.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-57675-125-1

For 14 years Kelly, founding editor of Business Ethics and contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the Utne Reader, etc., championed shareholder power over corporate responsibility. Now, she views shareholders themselves as the problem and advocates removing their power to correct business abuses. With the zeal of a convert, she alleges that shareholders should have no say in corporate management or any share in profits. She acknowledges that, since the majority of U.S. households own stock, she seems to blame everyone. In fact, she exonerates shareholders with less than $5,000 in stock, and dismisses even the wealthiest 10% as "small fry." The real enemies are unspecified, extremely wealthy shareholders. Next, confusingly, Kelly claims that shareholders have little power over large public corporations. She contends that shareholder elections of directors are rubber stamps on CEOs' decisions, and no one would notice if aliens abducted entire boards. But if CEOs are all-powerful, why blame problems on shareholders? Because, says Kelly, of the "inverted monarchy," wherein the CEO is simultaneously all-powerful and completely constrained; shareholders, meanwhile, are powerless, but maintain freedom and personal profit. She compares this configuration to England's Glorious Revolution of 1688, when "Parlia- ment—which represented the landed class—first asserted power over the monarch." Instead of alternatives, Kelly offers a "diagnosis" aimed at smashing conventional wisdom so that new ideas may flourish. As such, it will more likely inspire a future, more mature, probably influential work than gain popularity itself. (Oct.)

Forecast:Kelly's 180-degree shift in opinion will confuse the marketing; reading the book will confuse everyone. Nevertheless, her renown, a six-city tour and national radio phone-in campaign will attract readers.

Reviewed on: 09/17/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-57675-237-1
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