Author(s): Duff McDonald
With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Co. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and influence: Harvard Business School.
Harvard University occupies a singular place in the public's imagination, but HBS has arguably eclipsed its parent in terms of its influence on modern society. A Harvard degree guarantees respect. An HBS degree is, as the New York Times proclaimed in 1978, "the golden passport to life in the upper class." Those holding Harvard MBA's are nearly guaranteed entrance into Western capitalism's most powerful realm-the corner office.
Most people have a vague knowledge of the power of the HBS network, but few understand the dynamics that have made HBS an indestructible and powerful force for almost a century. As McDonald explores those dynamics, he also reveals how, despite HBS's enormous success, it has proven an equally enormous failure at the stated goal of its founders: "the multiplication of men who will handle their current business problems in socially constructive ways." While HBS graduates tend to be very good at whatever they do, but that is rarely the doing of good.
In addition to showing the inner workings of this exclusive, if not necessarily "secret" club, McDonald explores two hugely important questions: Has the school failed at reaching the goals it set for itself? And is HBS therefore complicit in the moral failings of Western capitalism?
At a time of enormous economic disparity and political unrest, this hard hitting yet fair portrait offers a much-needed look at an institution that has a profound influence on the shape of our society and all our lives.