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Publisher's Summary

A riveting and timely intellectual history of one of our most important capitalist institutions, Harvard Business School, from the best-selling author of The Firm.

With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. 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 unique 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 MBAs are near-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 these dynamics, he also reveals how, despite HBS' enormous success, it has failed with respect to 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, that is rarely the doing of good.

In addition to teasing out the essence of this exclusive if not necessarily "secret" club, McDonald explores two 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 pronounced 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.

©2017 Duff McDonald (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 05-20-17

why hbs is the worst idea of all time

If you are looking for all the possible reasons why the Harvard Business School was a big mistake in concept, planning, execution and results, this book is for you. The only thing that puzzles me is if HBS is such a disaster, how has it lasted over 100 years. Sadly, Mr. McDonald was unable to make the "case."

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Summary of arguments against HBS

Disappointingly biased information about what can be said against the premier business school. It is informative in a way, but let the reader no chance to built his or her own opinion. Cherry picking negative opinions and unfounded claims on every page nixed with superficial rants on "capitalism". Could have been an interesting exploration of business education, but McDonald does not really talk/understand business.

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Far too agenda driven for a book of this length

Any additional comments?

the author was heavily biased against HBS. While many of his criticisms were accurate, he ended up restating them over and over again. The end result is a book about 5 times as long as it needed to be. If you distilled it down by removing all the jabs and knocks about HBS it would be much better.

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A mixed opinion

What did you like best about The Golden Passport? What did you like least?

As an alum of HBS, I can say that many of author's criticisms are quite fair and worth some serious reflection. However, I don't see much, if anything, really changing in how the school operates as a result.

Would you be willing to try another one of George Newbern’s performances?

The narrator should have taken the time to learn how to pronounce many of the names mentioned. Mispronunciations of both people and institution names run rampant in this narration and I can't believe neither the author bothered to check about names that might have been in doubt, nor did an editor (or even the author, for that matter) pick up on these.

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truth telling

loved the frankness, and authenticity. helped me understand my discomfort with Jensen and grateful for that. how do we truly impact our upcoming leaders.

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eye opening

Well read/presented, but rather dry. Very enlightening to anyone in business or truly interested in how our world today is being shaped.

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Excellent presentation

Excellent presentation of the authors thesis. Unfortunately the bookdoes seem to get bogged down in too many specifics regarding hiring and firing and the coming and going's of the faculty and alumni. I still recommend it however I can't give it five stars.